(19)
(11)EP 2 524 025 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
16.03.2016 Bulletin 2016/11

(21)Application number: 11702712.8

(22)Date of filing:  12.01.2011
(51)Int. Cl.: 
C12M 1/12  (2006.01)
C12M 1/26  (2006.01)
C12Q 1/24  (2006.01)
C12M 1/24  (2006.01)
C12M 1/30  (2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/IB2011/050134
(87)International publication number:
WO 2011/086508 (21.07.2011 Gazette  2011/29)

(54)

MEMBRANE TRANSFER METHOD AND TOOL

VERFAHREN UND INSTRUMENT FÜR MEMBRANTRANSFER

PROCÉDÉ ET OUTIL DE TRANSFERT DE MEMBRANE


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

(30)Priority: 14.01.2010 FR 1050233

(43)Date of publication of application:
21.11.2012 Bulletin 2012/47

(73)Proprietor: EMD Millipore Corporation
Billerica, MA 01821 (US)

(72)Inventors:
  • WAICHE, Gaël
    F-67000 STRASBOURG (FR)
  • KUKUCZKA, Monika
    F-67140 Andlau (FR)

(74)Representative: Santarelli 
49, avenue des Champs-Elysées
75008 Paris
75008 Paris (FR)


(56)References cited: : 
CN-Y- 2 923 714
US-A- 4 777 137
FR-A- 2 558 847
  
      
    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


    [0001] The present invention generally relates to the field of the microbiological testing of liquids.

    [0002] More particularly, the present invention concerns a method referred to as membrane filtration. This method consists of filtering a liquid sample on a porous membrane and then of depositing the membrane on gel growth media. The assembly is next incubated in order for the microorganisms of the sample retained on the membrane during filtration to be able to develop sufficiently to be visible to the naked eye. This simple method enables the microorganisms present in the sample to be counted and so to determine the degree of contamination thereof.

    [0003] Filter membrane devices are known which enable this method to be implemented.

    [0004] Document FR 2558847 describes a filter device having a tubular sleeve for containing a sample, and of which the base is constituted by a filter membrane, fixed to the end of the sleeve in a female end fitting forming a holding frame for the membrane and adapted to cooperate with a receptacle containing a growth medium. Once the filtration has been carried out, a fluid-tight cover is placed on the opposite end of the sleeve, the effect of which is to compress a small amount of air in the sleeve and push on the membrane which then adopts the shape of a dome pointing outwardly of the sleeve. The sleeve is then placed on the growth medium, and the membrane enters into contact with the growth medium from its center towards the outside, so minimizing the risk of bubble formation.

    [0005] Once the membrane is in contact with the growth medium, the sleeve may be separated from the end fitting bearing the membrane. The end fitting is next provided with a protective cover and then the assembly is incubated.

    [0006] In practice, the surface area of a membrane increases when it passes from a dry state to a wet state. This is what occurs further to the filtering step. Furthermore, the growth medium on which the membrane is then deposited has the shape of a dome pointing towards the membrane. Thus, on incubation, the membrane deforms by creep in contact with the growth medium: its surface area further Increases relative to that obtained on finishing the filtering step.

    [0007] In certain microbiological analyses, it is necessary to apply a reagent to the membrane after having incubated it. This may, for example, be a revealing reagent. For this, a substantially flat pad is used, which is impregnated with the chosen reagent before depositing the membrane thereon, which has been separated from the growth medium beforehand.

    [0008] In practice, this poses several problems:
    • further to the filtration and the incubation, the surface area of the membrane is greater than that of the reagent pad,
    • the radius of curvature of the membrane and that of the pad do not match,
    • the sleeve is no longer in place and it is therefore no longer possible to apply additional pressure to give the membrane the shape of a dome pointing outwardly,
    • the cover that is applied before incubation cannot be removed to avoid possible contamination by the external air.


    [0009] The present invention aims to overcome these problems to enable a reagent to be applied, via a substantially flat pad, to the membrane deformed after filtration and incubation. To that end it provides a method according to claim 1.

    [0010] Thus, according to an advantageous result of the invention, further to this method, the membrane has returned to its original dimensions, substantially identical to those of its support frame while having been applied from a substantially central point outwardly of the pad, thereby avoiding the formation of bubbles.

    [0011] As a matter of fact, even when humid and bearing a retentate, the membrane has a certain degree of stiffness. The fact of applying a pressure difference between the opposite sides of the membrane enables it to be given the shape of a dome pointing towards the pad. This enables the pad to be contacted at a substantially central point when the downward movement occurs. Once this first contact zone has been established, contact friction is created between the membrane and the impregnated pad on that contact area. As the membrane has a certain stiffness of its own, the fact of applying a force on the frame to move the membrane downward against the pad results in a radial centripetal compression force of the membrane along the line delimiting the area of contact of the membrane with the pad.

    [0012] In other words, once the contact area has been established, the friction existing between the membrane and the pad over that area is taken advantage of to supply, on the line delimiting that surface, a centripetal force compressing the membrane towards the center while the membrane is in course of being applied to the pad. This force results from the force applied to the frame. This force is transmitted towards the contact area by virtue of the membrane's own stiffness. The pressure difference contributes to keeping the membrane domed and stiffened to avoid it collapsing on itself even when that force Is applied.

    [0013] Thus, the method according to the invention enables the problems set out above to be solved: the membrane is uniformly applied onto the pad, while limiting the risk of forming bubbles, and, further to the operation, the surface area of the membrane substantially returns to its original surface area, itself substantially identical to the surface area of the pad.

    [0014] According to other features, which may be combined:
    • the method is preceded by a step of saturating the pad with a reagent.
    • the reagent is a solution adapted to reveal the microorganisms contained in the retentate of the membrane.


    [0015] According to another aspect, the present invention concerns a tool according to claim 4.

    [0016] According to advantageous features, which may be combined:
    • the means for applying a pressure difference between the cassette and the body of the tool are an opening formed in the body of the tool, adapted to be connected to a vacuum pump that is external to the tool, and at its other end opening into a fluid-tight space between the cassette and the body of the tool.
    • the ejection head is annular and surrounds the body of the tool.


    [0017] Thus, advantageously, the ejection force is produced uniformly distributed around the periphery and there is no deformation of the cassette or the frame so enabling good adhesion between the membrane and the pad, once the membrane is in contact therewith.

    [0018] According to advantageous features, which may be combined:
    • the tool further comprises integrated means for pressure regulation.
    • the pressure regulation means are tared for a pressure between 40 and 70 millibars.


    [0019] Thus, advantageously, these provisions make it possible to avoid applying too high a pressure so as not to deform the membrane, while maintaining an optimum pressure to achieve compression of the membrane when it is applied to the pad so that the membrane substantially returns to its original dimensions. Furthermore, this device enables the possible variations resulting from an irregular operation of the vacuum pump to be expunged.

    [0020] According to an advantageous feature of the invention, means for sealing and retention disposed on the tool body so as to sealingly retain the cassette on the tool body are a seal inserted into a groove formed in the body for that purpose.

    [0021] This construction is particularly simple and the function of sealing and mechanical retention of the cassette on the tool is provided by the same member..

    [0022] According to an advantageous feature, the means for actuating the head in translational movement are an ejection lever. This enables the ejection force to be increased.

    [0023] According to another aspect, the present invention concerns a method for implementing a tool as described above, which comprises the steps of:
    • placing the cassette on the tool so as to engage the means for sealing and retention that are provided for that purpose,
    • impregnating the pad with reagent,
    • starting the means for applying a pressure difference between the cassette and the body of the tool,
    • sealingly engaging the skirt of the membrane support frame on the cassette;
    • establishing a pressure difference between the cassette and the membrane support frame such that the membrane takes the form of a dome pointing towards the pad;
    • while maintaining the pressure difference, applying a force on the frame so as to make the skirt slide on the cassette until contact is established between the end of the dome and the pad;
    • maintaining a force on the frame so as to make the frame move downward until it comes into abutment formed by the shoulder while maintaining the pressure difference.


    [0024] According to an advantageous feature, the cassette has openings enabling air to pass through the cassette and the establishment of a pressure difference between the cassette and the membrane support frame such that the membrane takes the form of a dome pointing towards the pad is generated by the means for applying a pressure difference between the cassette and the body of the tool by passing air between the tool and the membrane via the cassette.

    [0025] The invention will be better understood on reading the description of an embodiment of a tool and of the implementation of a method according to the invention, with reference to the accompanying drawings, given by way of non-limiting example, and in which:
    • Figures 1 to 3 are diagrammatic views in cross-section of a known microbiological analysis device,
    • Figure 4 is a view of a membrane support frame mounted on a complementary cassette.
    • Figure 5 is an exploded view of a tool according to the invention with a cassette and a membrane support,
    • Figures 6 to 13 are the successive steps of use of the device represented in Figure 5 in a method of microbiological analysis according to the invention.


    [0026] As can be seen more particularly in Figures 1 and 2, a filtration device 100 has a tubular sleeve 110 joined to a holding frame 120 for a membrane 130 adapted to cooperate with a cassette 200 containing a growth medium 210. A sample of a liquid not shown is introduced into the sleeve 110 then filtered through the filter membrane 130. Once the filtration, has been carried out, the membrane 130 bearing the retentate passes from a dry state to a humid state which slackens it so increasing its surface area relative to its initial surface area. This is more particularly visible in Figure 1.

    [0027] In order to deposit the membrane 130 on the growth medium 210, the sleeve is closed using a fluid-tight cover 111. The closing of this cover enables a small quantity of air to be compressed within the sleeve which then exerts a pressure on the membrane the effect of which is to push the membrane outwardly giving it the shape of a some pointing outwardly of the sleeve as can be seen in Figure 2. The sleeve may then be placed on the growth medium 210 without risking the formation of bubbles. Indeed, as can be seen in Figures 1 and 2, the growth medium 210 has the form of a dome pointing towards the sleeve. The contact between the membrane 130 and the growth medium 210 will occur first of all by the center then will extend outwardly, so limiting the risk of bubble formation and ensuring optimal adhesion of the membrane bearing the retentate from the filtration with the growth medium.

    [0028] Once the contact has been established between the membrane 130 and the growth medium 210, the sleeve 110 is separated from the holding frame 120 for the membrane 130 and the cover 111 is disposed on the frame in order to protect the membrane 130 against possible contaminations. The assembly formed by the cassette 200 containing the growth medium 210, the frame 120 supporting the membrane 130 and the cover 111 as can be seen in Figure 3 is then incubated for a period generally from 6 to 24 hours.

    [0029] During this incubation, the microorganisms contained in the retentate develop until they are visible to the naked eye: they may thus be counted and the degree of contamination of the sample may thus be determined. However, during this period of incubation, as the growth medium is domed, the membrane 130 deforms by creep in contact therewith. Once the incubation has termination, the assembly formed by the frame 120 and the cover 111 is separated from the growth medium cassette 200 to be applied to a cassette 300 on which a pad 310 is mounted using a transfer method according to the invention.

    [0030] As may be noted, further to the filtration and the creep, the membrane 130 is strongly distended and has a surface area very much greater than its original surface area.

    [0031] As can be seen in Figure 4, this poses a certain number of problems, preventing the membrane from being applied to the pad. To be precise, the geometry of the membrane 130 is very different from the geometry of the pad 310, the sleeve 110 is no longer available to give the membrane a dome shape and the cover 111 cannot be removed to avoid any contamination.

    [0032] The transfer method according to the invention enables the membrane 130 to be transferred onto the pad 310 without forming bubbles in a simple, uniform and even manner.

    [0033] This is made possible by the use of a stack of devices as can be seen in Figures 5 et seq. A tool 400 for transferring a filter membrane bearing a retentate to a pad 310 according to the invention is adapted to receive a cassette 300 which is itself surmounted by an assembly formed by a membrane support frame 120 and a cover 111.

    [0034] As can be seen more particularly in Figure 5, the membrane 130 is mounted in a support frame 120 having a shoulder 121 and a skirt 122 projecting from the shoulder. The cassette 300 bearing the pad 310 has a conical outer shape 320 of complementary shape to the skirt 122 enabling the latter to slide sealingly on the cassette until it comes into abutment formed by the shoulder 121. This can be seen more particularly in Figures 9 to 12. The tool 400 for transfer of the membrane 130 to the pad 310 has a tool body 410 with a free end adapted to receive the cassette 300 and an annular ejection head 420 mounted for translational movement about the body 410. The ejection head is adapted to move relative to the tool body so as to bear on a lower rim 321 of the outer surface of the cassette to eject the latter. The translational movement of the ejection head relative to the body is actuated by means of an actuating lever 421 which enables the ejection force to be increased. The tool body 410 has a groove 411 at its free end which is dimensioned to receive a fluid-tight seal 412. The fluid-tight seal 412 and the groove 411 conjointly form means for sealing and retention of the cassette 300 once the latter has been introduced onto the tool. To be precise, the elasticity of the seal 412 contributes to mechanically holding the cassette 300 in place.

    [0035] The body 410 of the tool 400 furthermore has a transverse opening 413 adapted to be connected by an end fitting 414 to an exterior pumping device not shown, enabling a reduction in pressure to be created in that opening which at its opposite end opens at the free end of the tool body adapted to receive the cassette 300. Thus, this opening enables a reduction in pressure to be applied between the cassette and the tool body.

    [0036] As can be seen in Figure 6, the method of transferring a membrane according to the invention consists, in a first phase, of disposing the cassette 300 on the tool body 410. This introduction is carried out until abutment formed by the inner face of the cassette 300 and the free end of the body 410 of the tool 400 is attained. The effect of this insertion is to move the ejection head down relative to the body 410 as can be seen in Figure 7. By this same movement, the actuating lever 421 rises to a substantially horizontal position.

    [0037] A protective film, not shown, which is disposed on the pad 310 may then be removed and the buffer is saturated with a solution of reagents. In the present embodiment, this is a solution adapted to reveal the microorganisms contained in the retentate of the membrane.

    [0038] As can be seen more particularly in Figure 8, the membrane support frame 120 is then disposed on the cassette 300. The vacuum pump connected to the opening 413 is then started, and generates suction between the cassette 300 and the seal 412. As can be seen in Figure 8, the cassette has, on its upper part on the periphery of the pad 310, a plurality of openings 322 enabling air to communicate between the space defined by the seal 412, the lower face of the cassette 300 and the outside.

    [0039] As can be seen in Figure 9, the membrane support frame is then mounted on the cassette 300. As the skirt 122 then sealingly cooperates with the conical outer surface 320 of the cassette, a pressure difference between the two faces of the membrane arises via the openings 322. This then takes the form of a dome pointing towards the pad as may be seen in Figure 9. As can be seen in Figure 10, a force diagrammatically represented by an vertical arrow is applied to the membrane support frame 120 via the cover 111 the effect of which is to make the skirt 122 slide relative to the cassette. A substantially central contact area between the membrane and the pad is then established.

    [0040] While maintaining the pressure difference between the opposite sides of the membrane, the compression force is continuously applied on the membrane support frame as visible in Figures 11 and 12, so as to transfer the membrane onto the pad progressively from the central contact area outwards.

    [0041] During these steps represented in Figures 10 to 12, the membrane is progressively compressed towards its center and further to this operation it has returned to its original dimensions. Applying a pressure difference between the opposite sides of the membrane gives it the shape of a dome pointing towards the pad. The membrane moreover has a certain stiffness of its own. Once a first contact zone has been established between the membrane and the pad, the force applied to the frame 120 combined with a contact friction arising between the membrane and the pad on that first contact zone results in a radial centripetal compression force experienced by the membrane along the line delimiting the contact area between the membrane and the pad. The membrane's own stiffness combined with the pressure difference providing a membrane shape which is domed towards the pad enables a progressive compression effect of the membrane towards the center as its application to the pad advances, as can be seen in Figures 10 to 12.

    [0042] To attain this result, it is necessary to apply a predetermined pressure difference preferably within a range from 40 to 70 millibars. Ideally, this pressure is 50 millibars. To keep this pressure at this value, the body of the tool 410 is provided with a pressure regulating device, not shown, which enables the pressure difference to be held constant between the opening 413 and the outer environment so as to expunge possible variations in pressure which could be generated by the vacuum pump connected to the end fitting 414. To be precise, too low a pressure would not enable the membrane to be sufficiently stiffened which would then collapse on itself under the application of the force, and too high a pressure would on the contrary have a tendency to deform the membrane to enlarge its surface area still further. The force applied on movement of the frame must be sufficient to complete the path from the engagement of the skirt 122 on the cassette 300 until the abutment constituted by the shoulder 121 and the upper part of the cassette 300 is attained, this distance in practice being of the order of 5 to 6 mm and having to be completed in a time greater than 0.6 seconds to attain that result.

    [0043] Once the membrane has been uniformly applied to the pad, it is necessary, for the subsequent operations of the microbiological analysis which will not be described in more detail here, to extract the assembly formed by the frame 120, by the cover 111 and by the cassette 300 of the tool 400. As can be seen in Figure 13, the lever 421 is actuated for this purpose. The ejection head 420 then moves relative to the body of the tool 410 and comes to press uniformly on the lower edge 321 of the cassette 300. In this way, the extraction is achieved via a force having an even annular distribution around the periphery of the cassette which advantageously avoids applying torsional forces to it the effect of which could be to separate the membrane from the pad. Once extracted in this way, the assembly formed by the cassette, the cover and the frame is ready to be used in the subsequent part of the microbiological analyses.

    [0044] Generally, it will be noted that in the example described above, all the components have a substantially circular cross-section. However, the formation of an assembly according to the invention having an oval or polygonal closed section is within the capability of the person skilled in the art without departing from the scope of the invention.

    [0045] It should be observed that the tool 400 disclosed above is designed for transferring a filter membrane such as membrane 130 bearing a retentate to a reagent pad such as the pad 310 but that the tool 400, and more generally the tool according to the present invention, can be used for transferring a filter membrane to members different from a reagent pad, for instance:
    • a pad impregnated with a liquid substance different from a reagent, for instance a nutritive liquid medium; or
    • a gel growth medium, such as a gel growth medium in a petri dish.


    [0046] It should be also observed that the tool according to the invention can be used for transferring the membrane to a member which is not flat but with a curvature different from the curvature of the membrane, so as to assure a good contact between the membrane and the member.

    [0047] Naturally, many modifications can be made to the embodiment described above without departing from the scope of the invention.


    Claims

    1. A method of transferring a filter membrane (130) bearing a retentate to a reagent pad (310), characterized in that:

    - the membrane Is mounted in a support frame (120) having a shoulder (121) and a skirt (122) projecting from the shoulder;

    - the pad is mounted on a cassette (300) of complementary form to said skirt;

    - the skirt being adapted to slide sealingly on the cassette until It comes into abutment formed by the shoulder;
    the method comprising successively the steps of:

    - sealingly engaging the skirt of the membrane support frame on the cassette;

    - establishing a pressure difference between the cassette and the membrane support frame such that the membrane takes the form of a dome pointing towards the pad, the pressure difference being a pressure reduction applied in a space between the membrane (130) and the cassette (300);

    - while maintaining the pressure difference, applying a force on the frame so as to make the skirt slide on the cassette until contact is established between the end of the dome and the pad;

    - maintaining a force on the frame so as to make the frame move downward until it comes into abutment formed by the shoulder while maintaining the pressure difference.


     
    2. A method according to claim 1, characterized in that it is preceded by a step of saturating the pad (310) with a reagent.
     
    3. A method according to the preceding claim, characterized In that the reagent is a solution adapted to reveal the microorganisms contained in the retentate of the membrane (130).
     
    4. A tool (400) for transferring a filter membrane (130) bearing a retentate to a reagent pad (310), characterized In that:

    the membrane is mounted in a support frame (120) having a shoulder (121) and a skirt (122) projecting from the shoulder;

    the pad Is mounted on a cassette (300) of complementary form to said skirt;

    the skirt being adapted to slide sealingly on the cassette until it comes into abutment formed by the shoulder; the membrane transfer tool comprising:

    - a tool body (410) with a free end adapted to receive said reagent cassette,

    - an ejection head (420) mounted for translational movement relative to the body, adapted to bear on the cassette to eject the latter,

    - a means (421) for actuating the head in translational movement,

    - means (412, 411) for sealing and retention disposed on the tool body so as to sealingly retain the cassette on the tool body,

    - means (413, 414) for applying a pressure difference between the cassette and the body of the tool, the cassette (300) having openings (322) enabling air to pass between the tool and the membrane via the cassette so that the means for applying a pressure difference can establish said pressure difference such that the membrane takes the form of a dome pointing towards the pad.


     
    5. A tool according to the preceding claim, characterized in that the means for applying a pressure difference between the cassette and the body of the tool are an opening (413) formed in the body of the tool, adapted to be connected to a vacuum pump that is external to the tool, and at its other end opening into a fluid-tight space between the cassette and the body of the tool.
     
    6. A tool according to claim 4 or 5, characterized in that the ejection head is annular and surrounds the body of the tool.
     
    7. A tool according to any one of claims 4 to 6, characterized In that It further comprises integrated pressure regulation means.
     
    8. A tool according to the preceding claim, characterized in that the pressure regulation means are tared for a pressure between 40 and 70 millibars.
     
    9. A tool according to any one of claims 4 to 8, characterized in that the means for sealing and retention disposed on the tool body so as to sealingly retain the cassette on the tool body are a seal (412) inserted into a groove (411) formed in the body for that purpose.
     
    10. A tool according to any one of claims 4 to 9, characterized in that the means for actuating the head in translational movement are an ejection lever (421).
     
    11. A method of using a tool according to any one of claims 7 to 10, characterized in that it comprises the steps of:

    - placing the cassette (300) on the tool (400) so as to engage the means for sealing (412, 411) and retention that are provided for that purpose,

    - impregnating the pad (310) with reagent,

    - starting the means for applying a pressure difference between the cassette and the body of the tool,

    - sealingly engaging the skirt (122) of the membrane support frame on the cassette;

    - establishing a pressure difference between the cassette and the membrane support frame such that the membrane takes the form of a dome pointing towards the pad;

    - while maintaining the pressure difference, applying a force on the frame so as to make the skirt slide on the cassette until contact is established between the end of the dome and the pad;

    - maintaining a force on the frame so as to make the frame move downward until It comes Into abutment formed by the shoulder while maintaining the pressure difference.


     
    12. A method according to the preceding claim, characterized in that the cassette has openings (322) enabling air to pass through the cassette and in that the establishment of a pressure difference between the cassette and the membrane support frame such that the membrane takes the form of a dome pointing towards the pad is generated by the means for applying a pressure difference between the cassette and the body of the tool by passing air between the tool and the membrane via the cassette.
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Ein Verfahren zum Übertragen einer Filtermembran (130), die ein Retentat trägt, zu einem Reagenzpad (310), dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass:

    - die Membran in einem Tragrahmen (120) mit einer Schulter (121) und einer Randleiste (122), die von der Schulter vorsteht, angebracht wird,

    - das Pad an einer Kassette (300) einer zu der Randleiste komplementären Form angebracht wird,

    - die Randleiste eingerichtet ist, um abdichtend an bzw. auf der Kassette zu gleiten, bis sie in eine durch die Schulter gebildete Anlage kommt,
    wobei das Verfahren aufeinanderfolgend die Schritte aufweist:

    - abdichtendes Ineingriffbringen der Randleiste des Membran-Tragrahmens an bzw. auf der Kassette,

    - Herstellen einer Druckdifferenz zwischen der Kassette und dem Membran-Tragrahmen derart, dass die Membran die Form eines zu dem Pad gerichteten Doms annimmt, wobei die Druckdifferenz eine in einem Raum zwischen der Membran (130) und der Kassette (300) hergestellte Druckverringerung ist,

    - Ausüben einer Kraft auf den Rahmen, während die Druckdifferenz beibehalten wird, um die Randleiste an bzw. auf der Kassette gleiten zu lassen bis Kontakt zwischen dem Ende des Doms und dem Pad hergestellt ist.

    - Beibehalten einer Kraft auf dem Rahmen, um den Rahmen nach unten zu bewegen, bis er in eine durch die Schulter gebildete Anlage gelangt, während die Druckdifferenz beibehalten wird.


     
    2. Ein Verfahren gemäß Anspruch 1, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass ihm ein Schritt des Sättigens des Pads (310) mit einer Reagenz vorausgeht.
     
    3. Ein Verfahren gemäß dem vorstehenden Anspruch, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass das Reagenz eine Lösung ist, die geeignet ist, um die in dem Retentat der Membran (130) enthaltenen Mikroorganismen zu zeigen.
     
    4. Ein Werkzeug (400) zum Übertragen einer Filtermembran (130), welche ein Retentat trägt, zu einem Regenzpad (310) dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass:

    die Membran in einem Tragrahmen (120) mit einer Schulter (121) und einer von der Schulter vorstehenden Randleiste (122) angebracht wird,

    das Pad an bzw. auf einer Kassette (300) einer komplementären Form zu der Randleiste angebracht wird,

    die Randleiste eingerichtet ist, um abdichtend an bzw. auf der Kassette zu gleiten, bis sie in eine durch die Schulter gebildete Anlage gelangt, wobei das Membran-Übertragungswerkzeug aufweist:

    - einen Werkzeugkörper (410) mit einem freien Ende, das eingerichtet ist, um die Reagenzkassette aufzunehmen,

    - einen Ausstoßkopf (420), der für eine translatorische Bewegung relativ zu dem Körper angebracht und eingerichtet ist, um sich an der Kassette abzustützen, um letztere auszustoßen,

    - ein Mittel (421) zum Betätigen des Kopfs in einer translatorische Bewegung,

    - Mittel (412, 411) zum Dichten und Rückhalten, die an bzw. auf dem Werkzeugkörper so angeordnet sind, dass sie die Kassette an bzw. auf dem Werkzeugkörper abdichtend festhalten,

    - Mitteln (413, 414) zum Anwenden einer Druckdifferenz zwischen der Kassette und dem Körper des Werkzeugs, wobei die Kassette (300) Öffnungen (322) besitzt, um ein Durchtreten von Luft zwischen dem Werkzeug und der Membran über die Kassette so zu ermöglichen, dass die Mittel zum Anwenden einer Druckdifferenz die Druckdifferenz so herstellen können, dass die Membran die Form eines zu dem Pad gerichteten Doms annimmt.


     
    5. Ein Werkzeug gemäß dem vorstehendem Anspruch, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Mittel zum Anwenden einer Druckdifferenz zwischen der Kassette und dem Körper des Werkzeugs eine Öffnung (413) sind, die in dem Körper des Werkzeugs ausgebildet ist und die eingerichtet ist, um mit einer Vakuumpumpe extern zu dem Werkzeug verbunden zu werden, und die sich an ihrem anderen Ende in einen fluiddichten Raum zwischen der Kassette und dem Körper des Werkzeugs öffnet.
     
    6. Ein Werkzeug gemäß Anspruch 4 oder 5, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass der Ausstoßkopf ringförmig ist und den Körper des Werkzeugs umgibt.
     
    7. Ein Werkzeug gemäß einem der Ansprüche 4 bis 6, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass es ferner integrierte Druckreguliermittel aufweist.
     
    8. Ein Werkzeug gemäß dem vorstehenden Anspruch, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Druckreguliermittel für einen Druck zwischen 40 und 70 mbar austariert sind.
     
    9. Ein Werkezeug gemäß einem der Ansprüche 4 bis 8, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Mittel zum Dichten und Rückhalten, die an dem Werkzeugkörper so angeordnet sind, dass sie die Kassette an dem Werkzeugkörper abdichtend festhalten, eine Dichtung (412) sind, die in eine Nut (411), welche in dem Körper für diesen Zweck ausgebildet ist, eingesetzt ist.
     
    10. Ein Werkzeug gemäß einem der Ansprüche 4 bis 9, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Mittel zum Betätigen des Kopfs in einer translatorischen Bewegung ein Ausstoßhebel (421) sind.
     
    11. Ein Verfahren zum Anwenden eines Werkzeugs gemäß einem der Ansprüche 7 bis 10, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass es die Schritte aufweist:

    - Anordnen der Kassette (300) auf dem Werkzeug (400), um die Mittel zum Dichten (412, 411) und Rückhalten, die für diesen Zweck vorgesehen sind, in Eingriff zu bringen,

    - Imprägnieren des Pads (310) mit einer Reagenz,

    - Starten der Mittel zum Anwenden einer Druckdifferenz zwischen der Kassette und dem Körper des Werkzeugs,

    - Abdichtendes Ineingriffbringen der Randleiste (122) des Membran-Tragrahmens an bzw. auf der Kassette,

    - Herstellen einer Druckdifferenz zwischen der Kassette und dem Membran-Tragrahmen derart, dass die Membran die Form eines zu dem Pad weisenden Doms annimmt,

    - Ausüben einer Kraft auf den Rahmen, während die Druckdifferenz beibehalten wird, um die Randleiste auf der Kassette gleiten zu lassen, bis ein Kontakt zwischen dem Ende des Doms und dem Pad hergestellt ist,

    - Aufrechterhalten einer Kraft auf dem Rahmen, um den Rahmen nach unten zu bewegen, bis er in eine Anlage, welche durch die Schulter gebildet ist, gelangt, während die Druckdifferenz beibehalten wird.


     
    12. Ein Verfahren gemäß dem vorstehenden Anspruch, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Kassette Öffnungen (322) besitzt, die es Luft ermöglicht, durch die Kassette zu treten, und dadurch, dass die Einrichtung einer Druckdifferenz zwischen der Kassette und dem Membran-Tragrahmen, derart, dass die Membran die Form eines zu dem Pad weisenden Doms annimmt, durch die Mittel zum Anwenden einer Druckdifferenz zwischen der Kassette und dem Körper des Werkzeugs durch Passierenlassen von Luft zwischen dem Werkzeug und der Membran über die Kassette erzeugt wird.
     


    Revendications

    1. Procédé de transfert d'une membrane (130) de filtrage chargée d'un retentât vers un tampon (310) pour réactif, caractérisé en ce que :

    - la membrane est montée dans un cadre (120) de support présentant un épaulement (121) et une jupe (122) en saillie depuis l'épaulement ;

    - le tampon est monté sur une cassette (300) de forme complémentaire à ladite jupe ;

    - la jupe étant adaptée à coulisser de manière étanche sur la cassette jusqu'en butée formée par l'épaulement ;
    le procédé comportant les étapes consistant à successivement :

    - engager la jupe du cadre de support de membrane sur la cassette de manière étanche ;

    - établir une différence de pression entre la cassette et le cadre de support de la membrane de manière à ce que celle-ci prenne une forme de dôme pointant vers le tampon, la différence de pression étant une dépression appliquée dans un espace entre la membrane (130) et la cassette (300) ;

    - tout en maintenant la différence de pression, appliquer une force sur le cadre de manière à faire coulisser la jupe sur la cassette jusqu'à établir un contact entre l'extrémité du dôme et le tampon ;

    - maintenir une force sur le cadre de manière à le faire descendre celui-ci jusqu'en butée formée par l'épaulement tout en maintenant la différence de pression.


     
    2. Procédé selon la revendication 1, caractérisé en ce qu'il est précédé d'une étape consistant à saturer le tampon (310) d'un réactif.
     
    3. Procédé selon la revendication précédente, caractérisé en ce que le réactif est une solution adaptée à révéler les microorganismes contenus dans le retentât de la membrane (130).
     
    4. Outil (400) de transfert d'une membrane (130) de filtrage chargée d'un retentât vers un tampon (310) pour réactif, caractérisé en ce que :

    la membrane est montée dans un cadre (120) de support présentant un épaulement (121) et une jupe (122) en saillie depuis l'épaulement ;

    le tampon est monté sur une cassette (300) de forme complémentaire à ladite jupe ;

    la jupe étant adaptée à coulisser de manière étanche sur la cassette jusqu'en butée formée par l'épaulement ; l'outil de transfert de membrane comportant :

    - un corps d'outil (410) avec une extrémité libre adaptée à recevoir ladite cassette pour réactif,

    - une tête d'éjection (420) montée à translation par rapport au corps, adaptée à venir prendre appui sur la cassette pour éjecter celle-ci,

    - un moyen d'actionnement (421) de la tête en translation,

    - des moyens d'étanchéité (412, 411) et de rétention disposés sur le corps d'outil de manière à retenir de manière étanche la cassette sur le corps,

    - des moyens (413, 414) pour appliquer une différence de pression entre la cassette et le corps de l'outil, la cassette présentant des ouvertures (322) permettant un passage d'air entre l'outil et la membrane via la cassette de sorte que les moyens pour appliquer une différence de pression puissent établir ladite différence de pression de manière à ce que la membrane prenne une forme de dôme pointant vers le tampon.


     
    5. Outil selon la revendication précédente, caractérisé en ce que les moyens pour appliquer une différence de pression entre la cassette et le corps de l'outil sont une ouverture (413) pratiquée dans le corps de l'outil, destinée à être raccordée à une pompe à vide extérieure à l'outil, et débouchant à son autre extrémité dans un espace étanche entre la cassette et le corps de l'outil.
     
    6. Outil selon la revendication 4 ou 5, caractérisé en ce que la tête d'éjection est annulaire et entoure le corps de l'outil.
     
    7. Outil selon l'une quelconque des revendications 4 à 6, caractérisé en ce qu'il comporte en outre des moyens intégrés de régulation de pression.
     
    8. Outil selon la revendication précédente, caractérisé en ce que les moyens de régulation de pression sont tarés pour une pression comprise entre 40 et 70 millibars.
     
    9. Outil selon l'une quelconque des revendications 4 à 8, caractérisé en ce que les moyens d'étanchéité et de rétention disposés sur le corps d'outil de manière à retenir de manière étanche la cassette sur le corps moyens sont un joint (412) inséré dans une gorge (411) pratiquée dans le corps à cet effet.
     
    10. Outil selon l'une quelconque des revendications 4 à 9, caractérisé en ce que les moyens d'actionnement de la tête en translation sont un levier d'éjection (421).
     
    11. Procédé d'utilisation d'un outil selon l'une quelconque des revendications 7 à 10, caractérisé en ce qu'il comporte les étapes consistant à :

    - poser la cassette (300) sur l'outil (400) de manière à engager les moyens d'étanchéité (412, 411) et de rétention prévus à cet effet,

    - imprégner le tampon (310) de réactif,

    - démarrer les moyens pour appliquer une différence de pression entre la cassette et le corps de l'outil,

    - engager la jupe (122) du cadre de support de membrane sur la cassette de manière étanche ;

    - établir une différence de pression entre la cassette et le cadre de support de la membrane de manière à ce que celle-ci prenne une forme de dôme pointant vers le tampon ;

    - tout en maintenant la différence de pression, appliquer une force sur le cadre de manière à faire coulisser la jupe sur la cassette jusqu'à établir un contact entre l'extrémité du dôme et le tampon ;

    - maintenir une force sur le cadre de manière à faire descendre celui-ci jusqu'en butée formée par l'épaulement tout en maintenant la différence de pression.


     
    12. Procédé selon la revendication précédente, caractérisé en ce que la cassette présente des ouvertures (322) permettant un passage d'air de part et d'autre de celle-ci et en ce que l'établissement d'une différence de pression entre la cassette et le cadre de support de la membrane de manière à ce que celle-ci prenne une forme de dôme pointant vers le tampon est généré par les moyens pour appliquer une différence de pression entre la cassette et le corps de l'outil à l'aide d'un passage d'air entre l'outil et la membrane via la cassette.
     




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    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description