(19)
(11)EP 2 193 100 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
07.05.2014 Bulletin 2014/19

(21)Application number: 08789831.8

(22)Date of filing:  26.08.2008
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
C02F 1/461(2006.01)
G01N 27/447(2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/IL2008/001159
(87)International publication number:
WO 2009/027970 (05.03.2009 Gazette  2009/10)

(54)

pH gradients controlled by electrolysis, and their use in isoelectric focusing

Durch Elektrolyse gesteuerte pH-Gradienten und ihre Verwendung bei der isoelektrischen Fokussierung

Gradients de pH contrôlés par électrophorèse et leur utilisation pour la focalisation isoélectrique


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MT NL NO PL PT RO SE SI SK TR

(30)Priority: 27.08.2007 US 935698 P
25.03.2008 US 39257

(43)Date of publication of application:
09.06.2010 Bulletin 2010/23

(60)Divisional application:
12177368.3 / 2559666

(73)Proprietor: Technion Research and Development Foundation, Limited
Haifa 3200004 (IL)

(72)Inventors:
  • SIVAN, Uri
    34602 Haifa (IL)
  • BROD, Elad
    3460147 Haifa (IL)

(74)Representative: Dennemeyer & Associates S.A. 
55, rue des Bruyères
1274 Howald
1274 Howald (LU)


(56)References cited: : 
WO-A-2007/093395
US-A1- 2006 169 575
US-A1- 2005 189 237
  
  • HUANG TIEMIN ET AL: "Capillary isoelectric focusing without carrier ampholytes", ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY, AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, US, vol. 72, no. 19, 1 October 2000 (2000-10-01), pages 4758-4761, XP002584974, ISSN: 0003-2700, DOI: 10.1021/AC000599L [retrieved on 2000-09-01]
  
Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


Description

FIELD AND BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION



[0001] The invention relates to methods and devices useful in producing proton concentration gradients and desired proton concentration topographies in an environment (e.g., a solution, a gel, or the like) including an electrolyte.

[0002] Isoelectric focusing is an analytical technique for separating molecules in an analyte sample by taking advantage of the differing ionic properties of the molecules.

[0003] Isoelectric focusing is performed in a gel (usually of materials such as polyarylamide polyacrylamide, starch or agarose) having an immobilized proton concentration gradient, generally the proton concentration gradient changing from higher to lower pH in a given direction.

[0004] The analyte is loaded onto some location on the gel. The charge of each different molecule changes in response to the ambient proton concentration according to the acidity (pKa) of the various functional groups of the molecule.

[0005] An electric potential is applied parallel to the proton concentration gradient between an isoelectric focusing anode and isoelectric focusing cathode. Molecules having a net positive charge migrate through the gel towards the anode while molecules having a net negative charge migrate through the gel towards the cathode. The opposite, positively charge ions (cations) migrate towards the cathode and negatively charged ions (anions) migrate towards the anode. As the molecules migrate, the ambient pH changes to reduce the net charge on the molecule until the molecule reaches an isoelectric point (pI) where, due to the ambient pH, the net charge on the molecule is zero so that the molecule stops migrating due to the electric potential. If a molecule "overshoots" the isolectric point, the molecule reverses direction. In such a way, isoelectric focusing focuses molecules having the same pI into very narrow well-defined volumes of the gel.

[0006] Isoelectric focusing is exceptionally useful for the analysis of proteins as proteins are characterized by having many functional groups of different acidities.

[0007] Isoelectric focusing suffers from a number of disadvantages. To have sufficient resolution, it is often necessary to have a number of different gels having different proton concentration gradients spanning different ranges of proton concentration gradients, increasing costs and creating a logistical problem. Automated manipulation of fragile gels is difficult to implement. Gels having immobilized proton concentration gradients are generally expensive and may suffer from batch to batch reproducibility. Analysis of some analytes may suffer from a sieving effect as large proteins may have difficulty migrating through pores in the gels. Isoelectric focusing may be slow due to the slow migration of the analyte molecules. It would be advantageous to be able to perform isoelectric focusing with fewer disadvantages of the methods known in the art.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION



[0008] According to the present invention there is provided a method for producing a proton concentration in an environment including an electrolyte. The method comprises a) providing an environment (42, 72) including an electrolyte, b) contacting a plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) and at least one counter electrode (24) with said environment so that: a first side of said plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) faces said at least one counter electrode (24) to define an electrolysis volume (28) between said plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) and said at least one counter electrode (24), and a second side of said plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) faces a volume (30) of said environment, c) specifying a desired proton concentration topography which varied with time in said volume (30), said desired proton concentration is specified by a user using a user interface, d) passing a current between said plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) and said at least one counter electrode (24) so as to electrolyze components of the environment to generate electrolysis products in said electrolysis volume (28), e) transferring at least some said electrolysis products to said volume (30) and selecting a change to said current so as to produce said desired proton concentration topography in said environment (42, 72, and f) varying said current according to said variation so as to change a proton concentration in said volume (30) of said environment as a function of time thereby producing a proton concentration which varied with time in said volume (30) of said environment.

[0009] Optionally, the plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) is permeable to the passage of the electrolysis products therethrough.

[0010] Optionally, the method further comprises f) monitoring the proton concentration produced in the volume (30) of the environment and g) if necessary, adjusting the current passing between the plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) and the at least one counter electrode (24) so as to maintain the proton concentration produced in the volume (30) as the specified proton concentration.

[0011] Optionally, the method further comprises subsequent to d), specifying a desired proton concentration different than a previously specified proton concentration and passing a current between the plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) and the at least one counter electrode (24), thereby producing a proton concentration in the volume (30) of the environment wherein the current is such that the proton concentration produced in the volume (30) is the different specified proton concentration.

[0012] Optionally, the method further comprises changing the current as a function time, thereby changing the proton concentration produced in the second volume (30) as a function of time.

[0013] According to the present invention there also is provided a device for producing a proton concentration in an environment including an electrolyte. The device includes a) a plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) and b) at least one counter electrode (24); the plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) and the at least one counter electrode (24) arranged so that: a first side of the plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) faces the at least one counter electrode (24) to define an electrolysis volume (28) between the plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) and the at least one counter electrode (24), and a second side of the plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) faces a volume (30) of said environment, wherein the electrolysis volume (28) is in fluid communication with the volume (30) of said environment (42, 72).

[0014] Optionally, the working electrode (26) is permeable to the passage of electrolysis products therethrough to allow electrolysis products generated in the electrolysis volume (28) to pass through the working electrode (26) into the volume (30).

[0015] Optionally, the device further comprises an environment including an electrolyte contained within the container, filling the electrolysis volume (28) and contacting the working electrode (26) and the counter electrode (24).

[0016] Optionally, the container has dimensions of the order of the counter electrode (24) and of the volume (30), and the container is at least partially physically defined by a barrier impermeable to the passage of ions.

[0017] Optionally, the container has dimensions substantially larger than the dimensions of the volume (30).

[0018] Optionally, the device is configured to allow establishment of an electrical circuit between the working electrode (26) and the counter electrode (24) when the environment including an electrolyte fills the container and the electrolysis volume (28).

[0019] Optionally, the controller (16) is configured to allow variation of the magnitude of the electrical current.

[0020] Optionally, the device further comprises a proton concentration sensor functionally associated with the controller (16), the proton concentration sensor configured to determine the value of the proton concentration and to report the value of the proton concentration to the controller (16); and the controller (16) further configured to change a magnitude of a the electrical current in response to the reported value.

[0021] Optionally, the device further comprises observing the resultant changes in the proton concentration topography and determine the isoelectric point of a specific component in the environment according to the resultant changes.

[0022] Optionally, the device further comprises the device is used for isoelectric focusing.

[0023] Optionally, the device further comprises c) a user interface which allows a user to provide instructions specifying a desired proton concentration topography which varied with time generated in the volume (30), and d) a controller (16) is configured to select a change to vary the electrical current passing between the plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) and the at least one counter electrode (24) according to the desired proton concentration topography which varied with time and to change the electrical current according to the variation to vary a proton concentration generated in the volume (30) as a function of time.

[0024] Unless otherwise defined, technical and/or scientific terms used herein have the same meaning as commonly understood by one of ordinary skill in the art to which the invention pertains. In case of conflict, the patent specification, including definitions, will control. The materials, methods, and examples disclosed herein are illustrative only and are not intended to be necessarily limiting.

[0025] As used herein, the terms "comprising", "including" and "having" or grammatical variants thereof are to be taken as specifying the stated features, integers, steps or components but do not preclude the addition of one or more additional features, integers, steps, components or groups thereof.

[0026] As used herein, the indefinite articles "a" and "an" mean "at least one" or "lone or more" unless the context clearly dictates otherwise.

[0027] Unless the context dictates otherwise, the terms "generate" and "produce" or grammatical variants thereof are to be considered synonymous.

[0028] Herein, the terms "array of cells" and "electrode array" are in some instances used interchangeably.

[0029] Herein, the terms "analyte" and "material" are in some instances for the same concept in a different context. The term "analyte" generally refers to a material in an analytical context (e.g., analysis of the amount of the material present in a mixture) while the more general "material" refers, for example, to a material in a preparatory context.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES



[0030] Some embodiments of the invention are herein described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying figures. The description, together with the figures, makes apparent how embodiments of the invention may be practiced to a person having ordinary skill in the art. The figures are for the purpose of illustrative discussion of embodiments of the invention and no attempt is made to show structural details of an embodiment in more detail than is necessary for a fundamental understanding of the invention. For the sake of clarity, most objects depicted in the figures are not to scale.

[0031] In the Figures:

FIG. 1A schematically depicts various one-dimensional proton concentration topographies;

FIG. 1B schematically depicts various two-dimensional proton concentration topographies;

FIG. 1C schematically depicts, in perspective, devices for producing proton concentration topographies;

FIG. 2A schematically depicts, in side cross section, a device for producing a specified proton concentration;

FIG. 2B is a graph qualitatively showing the concentration of products of electrolysis in the device of Figure 2A;

FIGS. 3A-3C schematically depict a device for producing a one-dimensional proton concentration topography suitable for use in isoelectric focusing;

FIGS. 4A-4C schematically depict a device for producing a one-dimensional proton concentration topography suitable for use in isoelectric focusing;

FIGS. 5A-5C schematically depict a device for producing a one-dimensional proton concentration topography configured for use in isoelectric focusing;

FIGS. 6A-6B schematically depict a device for producing a one-dimensional proton concentration topography configured for use in isoelectric focusing;

FIGS. 7A and 7B are schematic top views of devices for producing one-dimensional proton concentration topographies, the devices actually constructed and used for implementing the teachings of the invention;

FIGS. 8A-8B are graphs showing proton concentrations produced using the device depicted in Figure 7A;

FIGS. 8C is a graphs showing a proton concentration topography produced using the device depicted in Figure 7B;

FIGS. 9A-9B schematically depict an embodiment of a device for producing a one-dimensional proton concentration topography configured for use in isoelectric focusing; and

FIGS. 10A-10F schematically depict a method for separating analytes in a mixture.


DESCRIPTION OF SOME EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION



[0032] The invention provides methods and devices for producing proton concentration topographies in an environment (e.g., a solution, gel or the like) including an electrolyte, generally environments having a low, negligible or non-existent buffering capacity. In some embodiments, the proton concentration topographies are non-immobilized, that is to say, are produced on-demand, when desired and as needed. In some embodiments, the produced proton concentration topographies are mutable, that is to say may be controllably changed at will or as a function of time. Some embodiments also relate to proton concentrations topographies in fluids such as liquids (as opposed, for example, to gels) that are useful, for example for isoelectric focusing and for purifying analytes. Some embodiments relate to or are useful for implementing isoelectric focusing. Some embodiments relate to or are useful for implementing isoelectric focusing in fluids.

[0033] The principles, uses and implementations of the teachings of the invention may be better understood with reference to the accompanying description and figures. Upon perusal of the description and figures present herein, one skilled in the art is able to implement the teachings of the invention without undue effort or experimentation. In the figures, like reference numerals refer to like parts throughout.

[0034] Before explaining at least one embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details set forth herein. The invention can be implemented with other embodiments and can be practiced or carried out in various ways. It is also understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein is for descriptive purpose and should not be regarded as limiting.

[0035] In the art, proton concentration gradients are known. For example, when a current is passed between two electrodes immersed in a non-buffered environment including an electrolyte, a monotonous proton concentration gradient is produced, a high proton concentration close to the anode that continuously and monotonously drops to a low proton concentration close to the cathode. Such proton concentration gradients are non-immobilized as these are produced only when desired. Such proton concentration gradients are also mutable as changing the electrical current passing between the electrodes changes the gradient.

[0036] In contrast, prior art isoelectric focusing methods are usually based on the use of non-mutable proton concentration gradients immobilized in a non-fluid environment such as a gel. However, isoelectric focusing of proteins in a proton concentration gradient that is produced by electrophoresis, has been described by Huang et al. (Anal. Chem. 72 (2000), 4758-4761).

[0037] In Figure 1A are schematically depicted various proton concentration topographies.

[0038] One dimensional topographies i - vi are all produced in a elongated vessel divided into ten neighboring discrete volumes where the proton concentration (in pH) of each volume and each interface volume is depicted with the help of graphs showing pH as a function of volume number.

[0039] In proton concentration topography i, the proton concentration monotonously increases at a constant (in pH units) at a high rate from a very low proton concentration in volume 1 to a very high concentration in volume 10. It is seen that in each volume, the pH is well-defined while in the interface volumes the proton concentration is a gradient related to the proton concentrations of the neighboring volumes defining the interface volume.

[0040] In proton concentration topography ii, the proton concentration monotonously increases at a constant (in pH units) at a low rate from a certain proton concentration in volume 1 to a somewhat higher proton concentration in volume 10.

[0041] In proton concentration topography iii, the proton concentration monotonously increases from volume 1 to volume 10 at a varying rate. From volume 1 to volume 4 the rate of increase in proton concentration is very high, while from volume 4 to volume 10 the rate of increase in proton concentration is relatively low.

[0042] In proton concentration topography iv, the proton concentration monotonously increases from volume 1 to volume 10 at a varying rate. From volume 1 to volume 2 the rate of increase in proton concentration is very high, from volume 3 to volume 8 the rate of increase in proton concentration is relatively low and from volume 8 to 10 the rate of increase in proton concentration is very high.

[0043] In proton concentration topography v, the proton concentration monotonously increases from volume 1 to volume 6 at a constant rate (in units of pH) and then monotonously decreases from volume 6 to 10 at a constant rate (in units of pH).

[0044] In proton concentration topography vi, the movement of ions between two neighboring volumes is inhibited, for example by the placement of impermeable barriers between any two volumes. It is seen that in such an embodiment, the interface volume is, in fact, occupied by the impermeable barrier and has no significant proton concentration.

[0045] Proton concentration topographies vii and viii depicted in Figure 1B are two-dimensional proton concentration topographies schematically depicted from above. In proton topographies vi and vii, interface volumes are depicted in grey. The proton concentration of each volume is written in units of pH in the center of the volume while the proton concentration of the interface volumes is defined by the neighboring volumes defining the interface volume.

[0046] Proton concentration topography vii comprises sixteen discrete neighboring volumes, arranged in a 4 volume by 4 volume square array where each non-edge volume is surrounded by four neighboring volumes arranged as a cross.

[0047] Proton concentration topography vii comprises 25 discrete neighboring volumes, arranged in a hexagonal array where each non-edge volume is surrounded by six equidistant neighboring volumes.

[0048] A number of devices for producing a proton concentration gradient are depicted in Figure 1C, which are outside the scope of the present invention.

[0049] Device 10 comprises ten independently controllable cells 12 arranged in a line to constitute a linear area, each cell 12 configured to produce a specified proton concentration in an associated volume of an environment including an electrolyte held in container 14. The volumes associated with each cell 12 are the volume of environment held in container 14 proximal to that cell 12. As there are no barriers or other impediments between the associated volumes, device 10 is configured to allow substantially uninhibited movement of ions between neighboring volumes.

[0050] Device 10 comprises a controller 16 that is functionally associated with each of cells 12 and is used to control the proton concentration produced in the associated volume of each cell 12 by controlling the magnitude of an electric current passing through each cell 12. Controller 16 includes a controller input component allowing a user to input a desired proton concentration produced in an associated volume by each cell in order to specify a desired proton concentration topography. Device 10 may be used to produce many different proton concentration topographies, including proton topographies i, ii, iii, iv and v depicted in Figure 1A.

[0051] Device 18 depicted in Figure 1C is similar to device 10. However, container 14 is divided into ten subcontainers 14' by impermeable barriers 20.

[0052] In embodiments where container 14 is filled with a fluid environment including an electrolyte so that the level of fluid is lower than the height of barriers 20, the environment held in container 14 is divided into a plurality of physically discrete neighboring volumes where ion movement between neighboring volumes is inhibited. In such embodiments, each volume associated with a cell 12 is physically defined by a subcontainer 14'. In such embodiments, device 18 may be used to produce many different proton concentration topographies, including proton concentration topography vi depicted in Figure 1A.

[0053] Container 14 is filled with a fluid environment including an electrolyte so that the level of fluid is higher than the height of barriers 20. In such embodiments, each volume associated with a cell 12 is only partially physically defined by a subcontainer 14'. In such embodiments, device 18 may be used to produce many different proton concentration topographies, including proton topographies i, ii, iii, iv and v depicted in Figure 1A.

[0054] Device 22 depicted in Figure 1C comprises sixteen independently controllable cells 12 arranged in a four cell by four cell square array, each cell 12 configured to produce a specified proton concentration in an associated volume of an environment including an electrolyte held in container 14. The volumes associated with each cell 12 are the volume of environment held in container 14 proximal to that cell 12. As there are no barriers or other impediments between the volumes, device 10 is configured to allow substantially uninhibited movement of ions between neighboring volumes. Device 22 may be used to produce many different proton concentration topographies, including proton concentration topography vii depicted in Figure 1B.

[0055] In Figure 2A, not covered by the scope of the present invention, a device for producing a specified proton concentration in an environment, cell 12 is schematically depicted in side cross-section. Cell 12 comprises a counter electrode 24, a working electrode 26 (a mesh permeable to the passage of ions), an electrolysis volume 28 (the volume between working electrode 26 and counter electrode 24), a second volume 30 on the opposite side of working electrode 26 and a proton concentration sensor 32 in second volume 30, all contained within the volume defined by container 14. Electrodes 24 and 26 are functionally associated with controller 16, which is configured to control the magnitude of a current passing between electrodes 24 and 26 when an environment including an electrolyte is contained within container 14 and in contact with electrodes 24 and 26.

[0056] For use, an environment including an electrolyte is added to container 14 filling electrolysis volume 28 and second volume 30 and establishing an electrical circuit including electrodes 24 and 26. Controller 16 passes an electrical current through the established circuit between electrodes 24 and 26. Electrolysis occurs in electrolysis volume 28, electrolyzing water to generatw electrolysis products such as protons and hydroxyl anions. The protons migrate to the cathode while the hydroxyl anions migrate to the anode, changing the proton concentration in the vicinity of the electrodes.

[0057] Ions in the vicinity of working electrode 26 pass through working electrode into second volume 30, changing the proton concentration in second volume 30 to be substantially equal to that near working electrode 26.

[0058] Proton concentration sensor 32 determines the value of a proton concentration in second volume 30 and reports the value of the proton concentration to controller 16 which then, if necessary, changes the magnitude of the electrical current in response to the reported value in order to produce a desired proton concentration in second volume 30, as input to controller 16 by a user through the controller input component of controller 16.

[0059] In Figure 2B is shown a graph qualitatively depicting the concentration of protons and hydroxyl anions in device 22 of Figure 2A when activated so that working electrode 26 is an anode and counter electrode 24 is a cathode. It is seen that the proton concentration monotonously decreases through electrolysis volume 28 from a maximum near counter electrode 24. In the proximity of working electrode 26 as well as in second volume 30 there is a high concentration of hydroxyl anions and consequently a low concentration of protons. It is seen that the concentration of hydroxyl anions in all of second volume 30 is the same and substantially the same as the concentration near working electrode 26.

[0060] An embodiment of a device configured producing a proton concentration topography and useful for isoelectric focusing in accordance with the teachings of the invention, device 36, is depicted in Figures 3A (perspective), 3B (side view) and 3C (top view).

[0061] Casing 34, substantially a non-conductive rectangular box of transparent polycarbonate with an open top, about 5 cm long, 0.5 cm wide, 0.5 cm deep contains other components of device 36. The volume defined by casing 34 is considered to be a container 14.

[0062] On one side of casing 34 is found a substantially standard electrophoresis assembly comprising an isoelectric focusing anode 38, an isoelectric focusing cathode 40 and an electrophoresis gel 42 (e.g., neutral uncharged polyacrylamide hydrogel available from Bio-Rad Haifa, Ltd., Haifa, Israel). By functionally associating anode 38 and cathode 40 with a standard electrophoresis power source, electrophoresis may be performed in the usual way in gel 42.

[0063] One face of gel 42 contacts a wall of casing 34. Contacting the opposing face of gel 42 is a membrane 44 (e.g., a hydrophilic polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) membrane with 5 micrometer pores available, for example, as Durapore (SVLP04700) from Millipore, Inc. Billerica, MA, USA) that physically supports gel 42 and allows substantially free passage of ions and water molecules between gel 42 and the rest of the volume of container 14.

[0064] Container 14 contains components of an array of a plurality (ten) independently controllable cells, similar to cell 12 depicted in Figure 2A. Each cell of the array of cells is configured to produce a specified proton concentration in an associated volume of gel 42. Taken collectively, cells of the array of cells are configured for producing a one-dimensional (linear) proton concentration topography in gel 42 in accordance with aspects of the invention.

[0065] The array of cells includes a single counter electrode 24 (platinum sheet) opposing ten individually controllable working electrodes 26a-26j (platinum mesh, made of 0.1 mm thick wires with 0.1 mm gaps), each working electrode 26 separated from neighboring working electrodes 26 by an electrode separator 46a - 46i (0.1 mm glass walls). Working electrodes 26a-26j are placed about 0.5 mm from membrane 44 and about 2 mm from counter electrode 24 by.

[0066] The volume defined between working electrodes 26 and counter electrode 24 is an electrolysis volume 28.

[0067] The volume defined by a working electrode 26, one or two bordering electrode separators 46 and membrane 44 is a proton reservoir volume 48a - 48j, on the bottom of which is embedded a proton concentration sensor 32a-32j (e.g., Orion 9863BN, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., Waltham, MA, USA) and a magnetic stirrer 50a - 50j.

[0068] For use, electrolysis volume 28 and proton reservoir volumes 48a-48j are filled with an electrolyte solution (e.g., 0.1 M Na2SO4 in water).

[0069] Isoelectric focusing anode 38, isoelectric focusing cathode 40, counter electrode 24, working electrodes 26, proton concentration sensors 32 and stirrers 50 are all functionally associated with a controller 16 (e.g., an appropriately configured microprocessor or digital computer with necessary peripheral accessories).

[0070] Stirrers 50 and proton concentration sensors 32 are activated.

[0071] Controller 16 activates each cell so that a selected current, typically between 0 and about 1mA cm-2 (depending on the desired proton concentration) is independently established between counter electrode 24 and each working electrode 26a-26j so that a voltage of between 0 and about 5V exists between counter electrode 24 and each working electrode 26a-26j.

[0072] As the system stabilizes, a proton concentration gradient (substantially as depicted in Figure 2B) is generated in the environment including an electrolyte held in electrolysis volume 28 between counter electrode 24 and each working electrodes 26a - 26j. As discussed with reference to Figure 2B, in each proton reservoir volume 48a-48j, a single stable and uniform proton concentration is maintained due to the small volume of a proton reservoir volume 48 as well as due to the action of stirrers 50. The proton concentration in each proton reservoir volume 48 influences the proton concentration in gel 42 through membrane 44 so that the proton concentration in a given proton reservoir volume 48 is the same in a volume of gel 42 immediately adjacent to that proton reservoir volume 48.

[0073] With reference to proton concentration sensors 32, the current passing between counter electrode 24 and each working electrode 26a-26j is changed until a desired proton concentration (as specified by controller 16) is produced and detected in an associated proton reservoir volume 48. As the current passing between counter electrode 24 and each working electrode 26a-26j is independently controllable, the proton concentration in each proton reservoir volume 48 and consequently in the adjacent volume of gel 42 is separately controllable. In such a way, a desired specified proton concentration topography is produced in gel 42, where each cell produces a specified proton concentration in a volume of gel 42 associated with that cell.

[0074] A mixture of one or more analytes for separation by isolectric focusing is loaded onto gel 42 and a potential (e.g., 700 V) is supplied between isoelectric focusing anode 38 and isoelectric focusing cathode 40. The proton concentration topography inside gel 42 causes separation of the individual analytes in the mixture according to the isoelectric points. The locations of the individual analytes are observed and analyzed in the usual way. Once the mixture of analytes has been separated and analyzed at a first proton concentration topography, the potential on working electrodes 26 is optionally changed to generate a different proton concentration topography in order to have a different isoelectric separation which is also observed and analyzed in the usual way.

[0075] For example, in an embodiments a first proton concentration topography is specified to have a proton concentration having pH 5.0 in the volume of gel 42 associated with working electrode 26a, the proton concentration decreasing monotonously and linearly to a proton concentration having a pH 8.0 in the volume of gel 42 associated with working electrode 26j, while a second proton concentration topography is specified to have a proton concentration having pH 5.2 in the volume of gel 42 associated with working electrode 26a, the proton concentration decreasing monotonously and linearly to a proton concentration having a pH 5.9 in the volume of gel 42 associated with working electrode 26j.

[0076] For example, in an embodiments a first proton concentration topography is specified to have a proton concentration having pH 5.0 in the volume of gel 42 associated with working electrode 26a, the proton concentration decreasing monotonously and linearly to a proton concentration having a pH 6.0 in the volume of gel 42 associated with working electrode 26j, while a second proton concentration topography is specified to have a proton concentration having pH 5.8 in the volume of gel 42 associated with working electrode 26a, the proton concentration decreasing monotonously and linearly to a proton concentration having a pH 7.0 in the volume of gel 42 associated with working electrode 26j.

[0077] In the specific examples described hereinabove, in the direction through gel 42 from proximity with working electrode 26a to proximity with working electrode 26j, the proton concentration monotonously decreases. As is clear to one skilled in the art, the change in proton concentration in a direction through gel 42 may be substantially any desired function, monotonous or not.

[0078] An additional embodiment of a device configured for producing a proton concentration topography and useful for isoelectric focusing in accordance with the teachings of the invention, a device 52, is depicted in Figures 4A (perspective view), 4B (side view) and 4C (top view).

[0079] Device 52 substantially resembles device 36 but includes a number of notable differences. One difference is that there is not one counter electrode 24 that functions opposite a plurality of working electrodes 26a-26j but rather a plurality of independent counter electrodes 24a-24j, each functionally associated with a respective working electrode 26a-26j. An additional difference is that electrode separators 46a-46i separate neighboring counter electrodes 24a-24j as well as neighboring working electrodes 26a-26j, thereby defining a plurality of physically discrete electrolysis volumes 28a-28j. Additionally, proton concentration sensors 32 are embedded inside a gel 42 on a wall of a casing 34 opposite a respective counter electrode 24 so as to measure the actual proton concentration of a volume associated with a working electrode 26 inside gel 42. Further, device 52 is substantially devoid of proton reservoir volumes 48. Rather, the distance between working electrodes 26 and a membrane 44 is very small, approximately only 0.1 mm.

[0080] An additional embodiment of a device configured for producing a proton concentration topography and useful for isoelectric focusing in accordance with the teachings of the invention, a device 54, is depicted in Figures 5A (perspective view), 5B (side view) and 5C (top view).

[0081] Device 54 substantially resembles devices 36 and 52 but includes a number of notable differences, including that device 54 is configured so that proton concentration sensors 32 are isolated from the influence of the electric field generated by isoelectric focusing anode 38 and cathode 40. Each proton reservoir volume 48 is divided into two parts, as seen in Figure 5B, a first part 48' (in Figure 5B, 48a' is depicted) and a second part 48" (in Figure 5B, 48a" is depicted).

[0082] A first part of a proton reservoir volume 48, such as 48a', is defined by a working electrode 26, one or two bordering electrode separators 46 and membrane 44 so that protons and water molecules can pass substantially uninhibited between first part 48' and gel 42.

[0083] A second part of a proton reservoir volume 48, such as 48a", is defined by a working electrode 26 and one or two bordering electrode separators 46. Second part 48" is separated from first part 48' and from gel 42 by an insulating partition 56, for example of polycarbonate, so that movement of protons between second part 48" and gel 42 is inhibited. Proton concentration sensors 32 (in Figure 5B, 32a is depicted) are contained within second part 48" of a volume 48. In such a way, proton concentration sensors 32 are isolated from the electric field between isoelectric focusing anode 38 and cathode 40.

[0084] An additional embodiment of a device configured for producing a proton concentration topography and useful for isoelectric focusing in accordance with the teachings of the invention, device 58, is depicted in Figures 6A (perspective view) and 6B (side view).

[0085] Device 58 substantially resembles devices 36, 52 and 54 but includes a number of notable differences. Like in device 36, device 58 includes proton reservoir volume 48a - 48j, defined by a working electrode 26, one or two bordering electrode separators 46 and a proton-permeable membrane 44a intimately associated with gel 42. Like in device 54, proton concentration sensors 32 are positioned on a wall of a casing 34 opposite a counter electrode 24, separated from direct contact with a gel 42 by a proton-permeable membrane 44b. However, unlike in device 54, in device 58 proton concentration sensors 32 are not embedded in gel 42 but rather contact a surface thereof.

[0086] An additional embodiment of a device configured for producing a proton concentration topography and useful for isoelectric focusing in accordance with the teachings of the invention, device 66, is depicted in Figures 9A (perspective view) and 9B (top detailed view). Device 66 substantially resembles devices 36, 52, 54 and 58 but includes a number of notable differences.

[0087] Device 66 includes an array of five independently controllable cells 12a-12e substantially similar to cell 12 depicted in Figure 2A. Each cell of the array of cells is configured to produce a specified proton concentration in an associated volume of an environment including an electrolyte held in proton concentration topography channel 72. Taken collectively, cells 12 of the array of cells are configured for producing a one-dimensional (linear) proton concentration topography in channel 72.

[0088] Device 66 is provided with a large anode bath 68 in which isoelectric focusing anode 38 is immersed and a large cathode bath 70 in which isoelectric focusing cathode 40 is immersed.

[0089] In device 66, components of each cell 12 are isolated from proton concentration topography channel 72 in separate volumes of container 14 to protect the components from damage from the electric field generated between anode 38 and cathode 40. Counter electrode 24 and working electrode 26 are isolated in a volume (which also includes an electrolysis volume 28 and a proton reservoir volume 48), the volume in fluid communication with proton concentration topography channel 72 through a narrow conduit that constitutes a portion of a respective proton reservoir volume 48. The volume of an environment including an electrolyte that is found in proton concentration topography channel 72 in proximity to the opening of each conduit together with proton reservoir volume 48 comprises the volume associated with each cell 12 in which a specified proton concentration is produced. In proton concentration topography channel 72, between any two such volumes are found interface volumes having a proton concentration (and in some cases, a proton concentration gradient) related to the proton concentrations of the two neighboring volumes defining the interface volume.

[0090] Each proton concentration sensor 32 is isolated in a respective proton concentration sensor volume 74 from proton concentration topography channel 72 in fluid communication with proton concentration topography channel 72 through a narrow conduit. In some embodiments (not depicted) pumps (e.g., peristaltic pumps) or other suitable device provide fluid communication between a proton concentration sensor volume 74 and a respective proton reservoir volume 48 to ensure that the proper proton concentration is measured.

[0091] In devices 36, 52, 54 and 58, the environment including an electrolyte in which a specified proton concentration topography is produced comprises the electrolyte solution and gel 42. In devices 66, the environment including an electrolyte in which a specified proton concentration topography is produced comprises the electrolyte solution held in proton concentration topography channel 72.

[0092] In devices 36, 52, 54, 58 and 66, the container configured to contain the environment including the electrolyte comprises container 14, including the portion in which a gel 42 is held or the proton concentration topography channel 72 of device 66.

[0093] In devices 36, 52, 54 and 58, the individual independently controllable cells configured to produce a specified proton concentration in an associated volume of an environment including an electrolyte comprise counter electrode 24, electrolysis volume 28, a working electrode 26, a proton concentration sensor 32 and for devices 36, 54, 58 and 66, a proton reservoir volume 48.

[0094] In device 36, the electrolysis volumes of each cell are not physically separated and there is a single counter electrode 24 for all working electrodes 26a-26j. However, in embodiments where a potential is applied between an isoelectric focusing anode 38 and an isoelectric focusing cathode 40, it is often advantageous that each working electrode 26 is provided with a dedicated counter electrode 24 to reduce interference between neighboring cells. Consequently, in devices 36, 52, 54, 58 and 66, each cell includes an electrolysis volume 28 between a working electrode 26 and a respective counter electrode 24.

[0095] In devices 36, 54 and 58, the volume of environment associated with a cell in which a specified proton concentration is produced includes a proton reservoir volume 48 as well as the volumes of membrane(s) 44 and gel 42 located proximally to a respective proton reservoir volume 48. In devices 52, the volume of environment associated with a cell in which a specified proton concentration is produced includes a the volumes of membrane 44 and gel 42 located proximally to a respective working electrode 26.

[0096] In devices 36, 52, 54, 58 and 66, proton concentration sensors 32 measure proton concentrations produced by a cell (e.g., 12) and report the measured concentration to controller 16. This allows monitoring of the actually produced proton concentrations and, if necessary, adjustment of the current passing between a working electrode 26 and a counter electrode 24 to maintain the actually produced proton concentration as a specified proton concentration.

[0097] As described above, when a device 36, 52, 54, 58 and 66 is operating to produce a proton concentration topography, gel 42 or environment held in channel 72 is divided into a plurality of discrete volumes characterized by a specified proton concentration, each volume associated with and in proximity to a specific working electrode 26 and in the case of devices 36, 54, 58 and 66 a respective proton reservoir volume 48. In gel 42 and in channel 72, between any two such associated volumes (and close to electrode separators 46) are interface volumes having a proton concentration (and in some cases, a proton concentration gradient) related to the proton concentrations of the two neighboring volumes defining the interface volume.

[0098] In some embodiments, a device of the invention such as device 36, 52, 54, 58 or 66 is configured so that a produced proton concentration topography in a gel 42 or proton concentration topography channel 72 is mutable and a proton concentration topography may be changed as desired and/or varied with time.

[0099] In some such embodiments, a controller 16 is provided with a user interface that allows a user to provide instructions specifying a desired proton concentration produced by each cell or to specify a desired proton concentration topography, as needed. Upon receipt of user instructions, controller 16 changes (or maintains) the current passing between one or more counter electrodes 24 and respective working electrodes 26 so as to produce the desired proton concentration topography.

[0100] In some such embodiments, controller 16 is provided with a timer and instructions as how to change a produced proton concentration topography as a function of time. With reference to the timer, controller 16 changes (or maintains) the current passing between one or more counter electrodes 24 and respective working electrodes 26 in accordance with the instructions so as to change the produced proton concentration topography as a function of time. The change in current may be such that the change in proton concentration produced by a cell changes in a step-wise fashion (that is to say, is allowed to stabilize at a certain value and is maintained at that value for some time) or continuously.

[0101] In some embodiments, such as device 36, each proton reservoir volume 48 is provided with a dedicated stirrer 50. In some embodiments, a proton reservoir volume is devoid of an actual stirrer and a uniform proton concentration is achieved by diffusion of protons inside the proton reservoir volume.

[0102] In some embodiments operation of a device such as a device 36, 52, 54, 58 or 66 may lead to the generation of heat, especially when a current passes between isoelectric focusing anode 38 and isoelectric focusing cathode 40. In some such embodiments, a device is provided with a cooling system, for instance comprising components to cool the environment including an electrolyte. In a typical example, a device such as device 66 depicted in Figures 9 is provided with cooling elements in the walls of anode bath 68 and cathode bath 70.

[0103] In the embodiments discussed above, isoelectric focusing is performed in a portion of the environment that is gel 42 or in channel 72 in which a proton concentration topography is produced that is non-immobilized and is mutable. Some advantages include the ability to use cheaper gels with greater reproducibility and the possibility, discussed herein, to analyze the same sample of analyte using a number of different proton concentration topographies.

[0104] An embodiment demonstrating the utility of a mutable proton concentration gradient when performing isoelectric focusing is discussed with reference to Figures 10A-10F. In the embodiment, it is desired to resolve two proteins of interest having a similar electrophoretic mobilities but different isoelectric points (e.g., at pH 5.5 and at pH 6.5), the two proteins in a mixture together with three other proteins having different electrophoretic mobilities and unknown isoelectric points. Each of Figures 10A-10F schematically depicts the location of the five proteins of the mixture (each depicted as a horizontal strip) in gel 42, a standard electrophoresis / isoelectric focusing gel, in which a proton concentration topography is produced and across which an electrical field is applied between isoelectric focusing anode 38 and isoelectric focusing cathode 40. A characteristic of the embodiment is that electrophoretic separation and isoelectric resolution are performed on parallel axes, and not perpendicular axes as known in the art.

[0105] A uniform proton concentration (pH 7) is produced throughout gel 42 and the mixture of proteins is loaded onto gel 42 in the usual way. A potential is applied between anode 38 and cathode 40.

[0106] In Figure 10A, the individual proteins move at different rates move as a result of electrophoresis.

[0107] In Figure 10B, the individual proteins have reached the maximal electrophoretic resolution with the "fastest" protein proximal to anode 38. It is seen that the two proteins of interest are close together.

[0108] In Figure 10C, a complex proton concentration topography is produced to further resolve the proteins of interest. In a central region 76, the volume of gel 42 in which the two proteins of interest are found, the proton concentration monotonously decreases from pH 2 (on the side of anode 38) to pH 10 (on the side of cathode 40). From the end of central region 76 having pH 2 towards cathode 40, a cathode region 78 (a volume of gel 42 which includes two "unwanted" proteins) the proton concentration decreases monotonously from pH 2 to pH 10 proximal to cathode 40. From the end of central region 76 having pH 10 towards anode 38, an anode region 80 (a volume of gel 42 which includes an "unwanted" protein) the proton concentration increases monotonously from pH 10 to pH 2 proximal to anode 38.

[0109] In Figure 10D, the three "unwanted" proteins in cathode region 78 and anode region 80 move each to a respective isoelectric point near the edges of gel 42 while the two proteins of interest in central region 76 are increasingly spatially resolved due to isolectric focusing resulting from the proton concentration topography described with reference to Figure 10C and the potential applied between anode 38 and cathode 40.

[0110] In Figures 10E, central region 76 is lengthened, increasing the spatial resolution of the two proteins of interest. Cathode region 78 and Anode region 80 are made smaller, forcing the three "unwanted" proteins closer together,

[0111] In Figure 10F, the two proteins of interest in central region 76 are spatially well-resolved.

[0112] Thus, using a mutable proton concentration topography, the present invention provides a method of analyzing an analyte using isolectric focusing, as described above, where the second non-immobilized proton concentration topography is chosen so that components of interest are spatially resolved to a greater extent than in the preceding non-immobilized proton concentration topography.

[0113] In some embodiments of the invention, isoelectric focusing is performed in an environment that is a fluid such as a liquid, e.g., an electrolyte solution, for example in channel 72 of device 66 or in some such environments gel 42 is removed and replaced with electrolyte solution. Some advantages in performing isoelectric focusing in a liquid is lower price, simpler replacement of the environment between analyses and no sieving effects that occur when large analyte molecules pass through channels inside gels. As discussed above, the use of a fluid environment also allows simple implementation of preparatory methods based on separation methods such as isoelectric focusing.

[0114] In the embodiments discussed above, the movement of ions between two neighboring volumes of the environment in gel 42 is substantially uninhibited, a configuration that is suitable for many uses, for example isoelectric focusing.

[0115] In some embodiments, the movement of ions between two neighboring volumes is inhibited. For example, one such embodiment where ion movement between neighboring volumes is substantially inhibited is similar to device 36 depicted in Figures 3 where gel 42 is replaced with an insulating glass plate. In such an embodiment, the volume of the environment associated with an individual cell in which a specified proton concentration is produced includes only a respective proton reservoir volume 48. Such embodiments are useful, for example for the display of data.

[0116] For use, proton reservoir volumes 48 and electrolysis volume 28 are filled with an environment including an electrolyte and a pH sensitive indicator having an appearance that is dependent on the proton concentration in the environment, e.g. Yamada Universal pH indicator (see for example, Foster SF and Gruntfest in J.Chem.Educ. 1937, 14, 274). The individual cells are activated to produce specified proton concentrations in the respective proton reservoir volume 48. The indicator in proton reservoir volumes 48 adopts a color that is dependent on the produced proton concentration. The proton concentration in each proton reservoir volumes 48 is specified so that when the collective appearance of proton reservoir volumes 48 (that is of the produced proton concentration topography as made apparent by the pH indicator in the environment) constitutes a display of data for example an image.

[0117] As is clear to one skilled in the art, the display of data using a device similar to device 36 as described herein above having a one-dimensional array of cells producing a one-dimensional proton concentration topography is limited. Analogous devices having a two-dimensional array of cells to produce a two-dimensional proton concentration topography have greater utility, especially for the display of actual images.

EXPERIMENTAL


Device for producing a specified proton concentration



[0118] A device for the production of a proton concentration in a liquid environment including an electrolyte, device 60 was made and used in accordance with the teachings of the invention to produce a specified proton concentration. Device 60 is schematically depicted in Figure 7A in top view.

[0119] Casing 34 of device 60 is a block of polymethyl(methacrylate) (Perspex®) 4 cm long (y dimension), 3 cm wide (x dimension) and 2 cm high (z dimension) in which a container 14 was hollowed to accommodate a cell 12 for producing a specified proton concentration in an environment including an electrolyte, cell 12 being 1 cm long (y dimension), 0.6 cm wide (x dimension) and 1 cm deep (z dimension). Counter electrode 24 of 0.1 mm thick platinum mesh was placed along a wall of cell 12. Working electrode 26 was placed inside container 14, in parallel to and spaced 2mm from counter electrode 24. Proton concentration sensor 32 (Orion 9863BN, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., Waltham, MA, USA) was placed on the wall of cell 12 opposite counter electrode 24, inside volume 30.

[0120] Container 14 was filled with an electrolyte solution of 0.1 M Na2SO4 in water. Proton concentration sensor 32 was connected to a suitable display device to indicate what proton concentration was measured by that sensor in volume 30.

[0121] Device 60 was used produce a specified proton concentration in an environment held in volume 30. Counter electrode 24 and working electrode 26 were functionally associated with a variable power supply to establish an electrical circuit. The variable power supply was used to pass a current of between about 0 and about 1mA cm-2 at a potential of between about 0 and about 5V through the electrical circuit including the electrodes. The current passing through the circuit led to hydrolysis of water and the generation of protons and hydroxyl anions in the volume of electrolysis chamber 28. The concentration of protons increased in proximity of the cathode while the concentration of protons decreased in proximity of the anode. Since working electrode 26 was made of mesh and therefore permeable to ions, generated ions from the vicinity of a working electrode 26 passed through working electrode 26 into the electrolyte solution held in volume 30.

[0122] The magnitude of the current passing through the circuit was adjusted with reference to the readings of proton concentration sensor 32 until a proton concentration corresponding to a pH of 4.7 was produced in the electrolyte solution held in volume 30, see Figure 8A.

[0123] The magnitude of the current passing through the circuit was subsequently adjusted with reference to the readings of proton concentration sensor 32 until a proton concentration corresponding to a pH of 9 was produced in the electrolyte solution held in volume 30, see Figure 8B.

Device for producing a specified proton concentration topography



[0124] A device for the production of a proton concentration topography in a liquid environment, device 62 was made and used in accordance with the teachings of the invention to produce a specified proton concentration topography. Device 62 is schematically depicted in Figure 7B in top view.

[0125] Casing 34 of device 60 is a block of polymethyl(methacrylate) (Perspex®) 4 cm long (y dimension), 3 cm wide (x dimension) and 2 cm high (z dimension) in which a container 14 was hollowed to accommodate two cells 12a and 12b, each for producing a specified proton concentration in an environment including an electrolyte, each cell 12a or 12b being 1 cm long (y dimension), 0.6 cm wide (x dimension) and 1 cm deep (z dimension). Separating the hollows of container 14 corresponding to each cell 12a and 12b is a 0.2 cm wide (x dimension) impermeable wall 64. Counter electrodes 24a and 24b of 0.1 mm thick platinum mesh were placed along a wall of cell 12a and 12b respectively. Working electrodes 26a and 26b were placed inside container 14, in parallel to and spaced 2mm from counter electrodes 24a and 24b. proton concentration sensors 32a and 32b (Orion 9863BN, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., Waltham, MA, USA) were placed on the walls of cells 12a and 12b opposite counter electrodes 24a and 24b, inside volumes 30a and 30b.

[0126] Container 14 was filled with an electrolyte solution of 0.1 M Na2SO4 in water. Each proton concentration sensor 32a and 32b was connected to a suitable display device to indicate what pH was measured by that sensor in a corresponding volume 30a or 30b.

[0127] Device 62 was used to produce a specified proton concentration topography in the electrolyte solution in a portion of container 14 including volume 30a, 30b and the interface volume 74 there between.

[0128] Two electrical circuits were established, each circuit including an electrode pair 24a/26a or 24b/26b and a separate independent variable power supply. Each variable power supply was used to independently pass a current of between about 0 and about 1mA cm-2 at a potential of between about 0 and about 5V through a respective electrical circuit. The current passing through the circuit led to hydrolysis of water and the generation of protons and hydroxyl anions in the volume of electrolyte chamber 28a or 28b. The concentration of protons increased in proximity of the cathode while the concentration of protons decreased in proximity of the anode. Since working electrodes 26a and 26b were of mesh and therefore permeable to ions, generated ions passed from the vicinity of a working electrode 26 through the working electrodes 26 into the electrolyte solution held in a respective associated volume 30a or 30b.

[0129] The current applied between counter electrode 24a and working electrode 26a was adjusted with reference to the readings of proton concentration sensor 32a until a proton concentration corresponding to a pH of 5.2 was measured in the electrolyte solution held in volume 30a associated with working electrode 26a while the current applied between counter electrode 24b and working electrode 26b was adjusted with reference to the readings of proton concentration sensor 32b until a proton concentration corresponding to a pH of 9 was measured in the electrolytic solution held in volume 30b associated with working electrode 26b, see Figure 8C.


Claims

1. A method for producing a proton concentration topography in an environment including an electrolyte, comprising:

a) providing an environment (42,72) including an electrolyte;

b) contacting a plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) and at least one counter electrode (24) with said environment so that:

a first side of said plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) faces said at least one counter electrode (24) to define an electrolysis volume (28) between said plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) and said at least one counter electrode (24), and

a second side of said plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) faces a volume (30) of said environment;

c) specifying a desired proton concentration topography which varied with time in said volume (30) of said environment, said desired proton concentration is specified by a user using a user interface;

d) passing a current between said plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) and said at least one counter electrode (24) so as to electrolyze components of the environment to generate electrolysis products in said electrolysis volume (28); and

e) transferring at least some said electrolysis products to said volume (30) of said environment and selecting a change to said current so as to produce said desired proton concentration topography in said environment (42,72); and

f) varying said current according to said variation so as to change a proton concentration in said volume (30) of said environment as a function of time thereby producing a proton concentration which varied with time in said volume (30) of said environment.


 
2. The method of claim 1, wherein said plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) is permeable to the passage of said electrolysis products therethrough.
 
3. The method of any of claims 1 to 2, further comprising:

f) monitoring said proton concentration produced in said volume (30) of said environment; and

g) if necessary, adjusting said current passing between said plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) and said at least one counter electrode (24) so as to maintain said proton concentration produced in said volume (30) of said environment as the specified proton concentration.


 
4. The method of any of claims 1 to 3, further comprising:

subsequent to d), specifying a desired proton concentration different than a previously specified proton concentration; and

passing a current between said plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) and said at least one counter electrode (24), thereby producing a proton concentration in said volume (30) of said environment wherein said current is such that said proton concentration produced in said volume (30) of said environment is said different specified proton concentration.


 
5. The method of any of claims 1 to 4, further comprising:

changing said current as a function time, thereby changing said proton concentration produced in said volume (30) of said environment as a function of time.


 
6. A device for producing a proton concentration topography in an environment including an electrolyte, comprising

a) a plurality of working electrodes (26a-j); and

b) at least one counter electrode (24); said plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) and said at least one counter electrode (24) arranged so that:

a first side of said plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) faces said at least one counter electrode (24) to define an electrolysis volume (28) between said plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) and said at least one counter electrode (24), and

a second side of said plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) faces a volume (30) of said environment (42,72), wherein said electrolysis volume (28) is in fluid communication with said volume (30) of said environment (42,72).


 
7. The device of claim 6, wherein said working electrode (26) is permeable to the passage of electrolysis products therethrough to allow electrolysis products generated in said electrolysis volume (28) to pass through said working electrode (26) into said volume (30) of said environment.
 
8. The device of any of claims 6 to 7, further comprising an environment including an electrolyte contained within said container, filling said electrolysis volume (28) and contacting said working electrode (26) and said counter electrode (24).
 
9. The device of any of claims 6 to 8, wherein said container has dimensions of the order of said counter electrode (24) and of said volume (30) of said environment, and said container is at least partially physically defined by a barrier impermeable to the passage of ions,
 
10. The device of any of claims 6 to 8, wherein said container has dimensions substantially larger than the dimensions of said volume (30) of said environment.
 
11. The device of any of claims 6 to 10, configured to allow establishment of an electrical circuit between said working electrode (26) and said counter electrode (24) when said electrolyte fills said environment and said electrolysis volume (28).
 
12. The device of claim 11, wherein said controller (16) is configured to allow variation of the magnitude of said electrical current.
 
13. The device of claim 12, further comprising a proton concentration sensor functionally associated with said controller (16), said proton concentration sensor configured to determine the value of said proton concentration and to report the value of said proton concentration to said controller (16); and said controller (16) further configured to change a magnitude of a said electrical current in response to said reported value.
 
14. The device of any of claims 12 to 13, further comprising observing the resultant changes in the proton concentration topography and determine the isoelectric point of a specific component in said environment according to said resultant changes.
 
15. The device of any of claims 6 to 14, wherein said device is used for isoelectric focusing.
 
16. The device of any of claims 6 to 15, further comprising

c) a user interface which allows a user to provide instructions specifying a desired proton concentration topography which varied with time generated in said volume (30) of said environment, and

d) a controller (16) is configured to select a change to vary the electrical current passing between said plurality of working electrodes (26a-j) and said at least one counter electrode (24) according to said desired proton concentration topography which varied with time and to change said electrical current according to said variation to vary a proton concentration generated in said volume (30) of said environement as a function of time.


 


Ansprüche

1. Verfahren zur Herstellung einer Protonkonzentrationstopograhie in einer Umgebung, einschließlich einem Elektrolyt, umfassend:

a) das Bereitstellen einer Umgebung (42, 72), einschließlich einem Elektrolyt;

b) das Kontaktieren einer Vielzahl von Arbeitselektroden (26a-j) und wenigstens einer Gegenelektrode (24) mit der Umgebung, sodass:

eine erste Seite der Vielzahl von Arbeitselektroden (26a-j) der wenigstens einen Gegenelektrode (24) gegenüberliegt, um ein Elektrolysevolumen (28) zwischen der Vielzahl von Arbeitselektroden (26a-j) und der wenigstens einen Gegenelektrode (24) zu definieren, und

eine zweite Seite der Vielzahl von Arbeitselektroden (26a-j) einem Volumen (30) der Umgebung gegenüberliegt;

c) das Spezifizieren einer gewünschten Protonkonzentrationstopographie, die mit der Zeit im Volumen (30) der Umgebung variiert, wobei die gewünschte Protonkonzentration durch einen Benutzer spezifiziert wird, der eine Benutzeroberfläche verwendet;

d) das Durchführen eines Strom zwischen der Vielzahl von Arbeitselektroden (26a-j) und der wenigstens einen Gegenelektrode (24), um die Komponenten der Umgebung derart zu elektrolysieren, um Elektrolyseprodukte im Elektrolysevolumen (28) zu generieren; und

e) das Übertragen wenigstens einiger der Elektrolyseprodukte an das Volumen (30) der Umgebung und Auswählen einer Änderung am Strom, um die gewünschte Protonkonzentrationstopographie in der Umgebung (42, 72) zu produzieren, und

f) das Variieren des Stroms gemäß der Variation, um eine Protonkonzentration im Volumen (30) der Umgebung als eine Funktion der Zeit zu ändern, wodurch eine Protonkonzentration produziert wird, die mit der Zeit im Volumen (30) der Umgebung variiert.


 
2. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Vielzahl von Arbeitselektroden (26a-j) für den Durchgang der Elektrolyseprodukte durch diese hindurch durchgängig ist.
 
3. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 2, ferner umfassend:

f) das Überwachen der im Volumen (30) der Umgebung produzierten Protonkonzentration; und

g) falls notwendig, das Einstellen des Stroms, der zwischen der Vielzahl von Arbeitselektroden (26a-j) und der wenigstens einen Gegenelektrode (24) durchführt, um die im Volumen (30) der Umgebung als die spezifizierte Protonkonzentration produzierte Protonkonzentration zu überwachen.


 
4. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 3, ferner umfassend:

anschließend an d) das Spezifizieren der gewünschten Protonkonzentration, die verschieden von einer zuvor spezifizierten Protonkonzentration ist; und

das Durchführen eines Stroms zwischen der Vielzahl von Arbeitselektroden (26a-j) und der wenigstens einen Gegenelektrode (24), wodurch eine Protonkonzentration im Volumen (30) der Umgebung produziert wird, wobei der Strom einer ist, sodass die im Volumen (30) der Umgebung produzierte Protonkonzentration die verschiedene, spezifizierte Protonkonzentration ist.


 
5. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 4, ferner umfassend:

das Ändern des Stroms als eine Funktion der Zeit, wodurch die im Volumen (30) der Umgebung produzierte Protonkonzentration als eine Funktion der Zeit geändert wird.


 
6. Apparat zur Herstellung einer Protonkonzentrationstopographie in einer Umgebung, einschließlich einem Elektrolyt, umfassend

a) eine Vielzahl von Arbeitselektroden (26a-j); und

b) wenigstens eine Gegenelektrode (24); wobei die Vielzahl von Arbeitselektroden (26a-j) und die wenigstens eine Gegenelektrode (24) derart angeordnet sind, dass:

eine erste Seite der Vielzahl von Arbeitselektroden (26a-j) der wenigstens einen Gegenelektrode (24) gegenüberliegt, um ein Elektrolysevolumen (28) zwischen der Vielzahl von Arbeitselektroden (26a-j) und der wenigstens einen Gegenelektrode (24) zu definieren, und

eine zweite Seite der Vielzahl von Arbeitselektroden (26a-j) einem Volumen (30) der Umgebung (42, 72) gegenüberliegt, wobei das Elektrolysevolumen (28) in Flüssigkeitskommunikation mit dem Volumen (30) der Umgebung (42, 72) steht.


 
7. Apparat nach Anspruch 6, wobei die Arbeitselektrode (26) für den Durchgang der Elektrolyseprodukte durch diese hindurch durchgängig ist, um es den im Elektrolysevolumen (28) generierten Elektrolyseprodukten zu erlauben, durch die Arbeitselektrode (26) in das Volumen (30) der Umgebung hindurchgeführt zu werden.
 
8. Apparat nach einem der Ansprüche 6 bis 7, ferner umfassend eine Umgebung, einschließlich einem Elektrolyt, das im Behälter enthalten ist, dem Füllen des Elektrolysevolumens (28) und dem Kontaktieren der Arbeitselektrode (26) und der Gegenelektrode (24).
 
9. Apparat nach einem der Ansprüche 6 bis 8, wobei der Behälter Dimensionen in der Größenordnung der Gegenelektrode (24) und des Volumens (30) der Umgebung aufweist und der Behälter wenigstens teilweise physikalisch durch eine Barriere definiert ist, die für den Durchgang von Ionen durchgängig ist.
 
10. Apparat nach einem der Ansprüche 6 bis 8, wobei der Behälter Dimensionen aufweist, die im Wesentlichen größer als die Dimensionen des Volumens (30) der Umgebung sind.
 
11. Apparat nach einem der Ansprüche 6 bis 10, der derart konfiguriert ist, um die Einrichtung eines elektrischen Schaltkreises zwischen der Arbeitselektrode (26) und der Gegenelektrode (24) zu erlauben, wenn das Elektrolyt die Umgebung und das Elektrolysevolumen (28) füllt.
 
12. Apparat nach Anspruch 11, wobei das Steuergerät (16) derart konfiguriert ist, um eine Variation der Größenordnung des elektrischen Stroms zu erlauben.
 
13. Apparat nach Anspruch 12, ferner umfassend einen Protonkonzentrationssensor, der funktionell mit dem Steuergerät (16) assoziiert ist, wobei der Protonkonzentrationssensor derart konfiguriert ist, um den Wert der Protonkonzentration festzustellen und den Wert der Protonkonzentration an das Steuergerät (16) zu melden; und wobei das Steuergerät (16) ferner derart konfiguriert ist, um eine Größenordnung des elektrischen Stroms als Reaktion auf den gemeldeten Wert zu ändern.
 
14. Apparat nach einem der Ansprüche 12 bis 13, ferner umfassend das Beobachten der resultierenden Änderungen der Protonkonzentrationstopographie und Feststellen des isoelektrischen Punkts einer spezifischen Komponente in der Umgebung gemäß den resultierenden Änderungen.
 
15. Apparat nach einem der Ansprüche 6 bis 14, wobei der Apparat zum isoelektrischen Fokussieren eingesetzt wird.
 
16. Apparat nach einem der Ansprüche 6 bis 15, ferner umfassend

c) eine Benutzeroberfläche, die es einem Benutzer erlaubt, Instruktionen bereitzustellen, die eine gewünschte Protonkonzentrationstopographie zu spezifizieren, die mit der Zeit variiert, die im Volumen (30) der Umgebung generiert worden ist, und

d) ein Steuergerät (16), das derart konfiguriert ist, um eine Änderung zum Variieren des elektrischen Stroms, der zwischen der Vielzahl von Arbeitselektroden (26a-j) und der wenigstens einen Gegenelektrode (24) hindurchführt, gemäß der gewünschten Protonkonzentrationstopographie auszuwählen, die mit der Zeit variiert und um den elektrischen Strom gemäß der Variation zu ändern, um eine im Volumen (30) der Umgebung generierte Protonkonzentration als eine Funktion der Zeit zu variieren.


 


Revendications

1. Procédé pour produire une topographie de concentration de proton dans un environnement comprenant un électrolyte, comprenant :

a) la production d'un environnement (42, 72) comprenant un électrolyte ;

b) la mise en contact d'une pluralité d'électrodes de travail (26a-j) et d'au moins une contre-électrode (24) avec ledit environnement de sorte que :

un premier côté de ladite pluralité d'électrodes de travail (26a-j) soit face à ladite au moins une contre-électrode (24) pour définir un volume d'électrolyse (28) entre ladite pluralité d'électrodes de travail (26a-j) et ladite au moins une contre-électrode (24), et

un deuxième côté de ladite pluralité d'électrodes de travail (26a-j) soit face à un volume (30) dudit environnement ;

c) la spécification d'une topographie de concentration de proton souhaitée qui varie au cours du temps dans ledit volume (30) dudit environnement, ladite concentration de proton souhaitée étant spécifiée par un utilisateur utilisant une interface utilisateur ;

d) le passage d'un courant entre ladite pluralité d'électrodes de travail (26a-j) et ladite au moins une contre-électrode (24) de manière à électrolyser des composants de l'environnement pour générer des produits d'électrolyse dans ledit volume d'électrolyse (28) ; et

e) le transfert d'au moins certains desdits produits d'électrolyse vers ledit volume (30) dudit environnement et la sélection d'un changement dudit courant de manière à produire ladite topographie de concentration de proton souhaitée dans ledit environnement (42, 72) ; et

f) la variation dudit courant en fonction de ladite variation de manière à modifier une concentration de proton dans ledit volume (30) dudit environnement en fonction du temps de manière à produire une concentration de proton qui varie au cours du temps dans ledit volume (30) dudit environnement.


 
2. Procédé de la revendication 1, dans lequel ladite pluralité d'électrodes de travail (26a-j) est perméable au passage desdits produits d'électrolyse à travers celles-ci.
 
3. Procédé de l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 2, comprenant en outre :

f) la surveillance de ladite concentration de proton produite dans ledit volume (30) dudit environnement ; et

g) si nécessaire, l'ajustement dudit courant passant entre ladite pluralité d'électrodes de travail (26a-j) et ladite au moins une contre-électrode (24) de manière à maintenir ladite concentration de proton produite dans ledit volume (30) dudit environnement comme étant la concentration de proton spécifiée.


 
4. Procédé de l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 3, comprenant en outre :

suite à d), la spécification d'une concentration de proton souhaitée différente d'une concentration de proton précédemment spécifiée ; et

le passage d'un courant entre ladite pluralité d'électrodes de travail (26a-j) et ladite au moins une contre-électrode (24), de manière à produire une concentration de proton dans ledit volume (30) dudit environnement, ledit courant étant tel que ladite concentration de proton produite dans ledit volume (30) dudit environnement est ladite concentration de proton différente spécifiée.


 
5. Procédé de l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 4, comprenant en outre :

la modification dudit courant en fonction du temps, de manière à modifier ladite concentration de proton produite dans ledit volume (30) dudit environnement en fonction du temps.


 
6. Dispositif pour produire une topographie de concentration de proton dans un environnement y compris un électrolyte comprenant

a) une pluralité d'électrodes de travail (26a-j) ; et

b) au moins une contre-électrode (24) ; ladite pluralité d'électrodes de travail (26a-j) et ladite au moins une contre-électrode (24) agencée de sorte que :

un premier côté de ladite pluralité d'électrodes de travail (26a-j) soit face à ladite au moins une contre-électrode (24) pour définir un volume d'électrolyse (28) entre ladite pluralité d'électrodes de travail (26a-j) et ladite au moins une contre-électrode (24), et

un deuxième côté de ladite pluralité d'électrodes de travail (26a-j) soit face à un volume (30) dudit environnement (42, 72) ; ledit volume d'électrolyse (28) étant en communication fluidique avec ledit volume (30) dudit environnement (42, 72).


 
7. Dispositif de la revendication 6, dans lequel ladite électrode de travail (26) est perméable au passage de produits d'électrolyse à travers celle-ci pour permettre aux produits d'électrolyse générés dans ledit volume d'électrolyse (28) de traverser ladite électrode de travail (26) dans ledit volume (30) dudit environnement.
 
8. Dispositif de l'une quelconque des revendications 6 à 7, comprenant en outre un environnement comprenant un électrolyte contenu dans ledit conteneur, remplissant ledit volume d'électrolyse (28) et entrant en contact avec ladite électrode de travail (26) et ladite contre-électrode (24).
 
9. Dispositif de l'une quelconque des revendications 6 à 8, ledit conteneur ayant des dimensions de l'ordre de ladite contre-électrode (24) et dudit volume (30) dudit environnement et ledit conteneur est au moins partiellement physiquement défini par une barrière imperméable au passage d'ions.
 
10. Dispositif de l'une quelconque des revendications 6 à 8, dans lequel ledit conteneur a des dimensions sensiblement plus grandes que les dimensions dudit volume (30) dudit environnement.
 
11. Dispositif de l'une quelconque des revendications 6 à 10, configuré pour permettre l'établissement d'un circuit électrique entre ladite électrode de travail (26) et ladite contre-électrode (24) lorsque ledit électrolyte remplit ledit environnement et ledit volume d'électrolyse (28).
 
12. Dispositif de la revendication 11, dans lequel ledit dispositif de commande (16) est configuré pour permettre la variation de l'amplitude dudit courant électrique.
 
13. Dispositif de la revendication 12, comprenant en outre un capteur de concentration de proton fonctionnellement associé audit dispositif de commande (16), ledit capteur de concentration de proton étant configuré pour déterminer la valeur de ladite concentration de proton et rapporter la valeur de ladite concentration de proton audit dispositif de commande (16) ; et ledit dispositif de commande (16) étant en outre configuré pour modifier une amplitude d'un dit courant électrique en réponse à ladite valeur rapportée.
 
14. Dispositif de l'une quelconque des revendications 12 à 13, comprenant en outre l'observation des modifications résultantes dans la topographie de concentration de proton et la détermination du point isoélectrique d'un composant spécifique dans ledit environnement en fonction desdits changements résultants.
 
15. Dispositif de l'une quelconque des revendications 6 à 14, ledit dispositif étant utilisé pour la focalisation isoélectrique.
 
16. Dispositif de l'une quelconque des revendications 6 à 15, comprenant en outre

c) une interface utilisateur qui permet à un utilisateur de fournir des instructions spécifiant une topographie de concentration de proton souhaitée qui varie au cours du temps, générée dans ledit volume (30) dudit environnement, et

d) un dispositif de commande (16) est configuré pour sélectionner un changement pour faire varier le courant électrique passant entre ladite pluralité d'électrodes de travail (26a-j) et ladite au moins une contre-électrode (24) en fonction de ladite topographie de concentration de proton souhaitée qui varie au cours du temps et pour modifier ledit courant électrique en fonction de ladite variation pour faire varier une concentration de proton générée dans ledit volume (30) dudit environnement en fonction du temps.


 




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Cited references

REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



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Non-patent literature cited in the description