Miniaturizing free-flow electrophoresis - A critical review

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Free-flow electrophoresis (FFE) separation methods have been developed and investigated for around 50 years and have been applied not only to many types of analytes for various biomedical applications, but also for the separation of inorganic and organic substances. Its continuous sample preparation and mild separation conditions make it also interesting for online monitoring and detection applications. Since 1994 several microfluidic, miniaturized FFE devices were developed and experimentally characterized. In contrast to their large-scale counterparts microfluidic FFE (m-FFE) devices offer new possibilities due to the very rapid separations within several seconds or below and the requirement for sample volumes in the microliter range. Eventually, these micro-FFE systems might find application in so-called lab-on-a-chip devices for real-time monitoring and separation applications. This review gives detailed information on the results so far published on m-FFE chips, comprising its four main modes, namely free-flow zone electrophoresis (FFZE), free-flow IEF (FFIEF), free-flow ITP (FFITP), and free-flow field-step electrophoresis (FFFSE). The principles of the different FFE modes and the basic underlying theory are given and discussed with special emphasis on miniaturization. Different designs as well as fabrication methods and applied materials are discussed and evaluated. Furthermore, the separation results shown indicate that similar separation quality with respect to conventional FFE systems, as defined by the resolution and peak capacity, can be achieved with micro-FFE separations when applying much lower electrical voltages. Furthermore, innovations still occur and several approaches for hyphenated, more integrated systems have been proposed so far, some of which are discussed here. This review is intended as an introduction and early compendium for research and development within this field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)977-993
Number of pages17
Issue number69160R/5
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008


  • EWI-12153
  • IR-60698
  • METIS-250921


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