What is the benefits of masstering tangential flow filtration?

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Widely used in biopharmaceutical manufacturing, protein purification, and contaminant removal from biological samples, tangential flow filtration (TFF) technology treats solutions in a gentle yet efficient manner while minimizing sample loss and maintaining the integrity of sensitive molecules.

An in-depth discussion of the principles, methods, and recent advances in tangential flow filtration technology can help to better understand its applications and facilitate the production of high-quality biologics, purification of biomolecules, and advances in biomedical research.

Therefore, an in-depth study of tangential flow filtration is essential for scientists, researchers, and bioprocessing professionals.

Mastering Tangential Flow Filtration and its benefits

What is Tangential Flow Filtration

Tangential Flow Filtration (TFF), also known as staggered flow filtration, stands as a widely employed separation process within the biopharmaceutical and food industries.

Diverging from conventional filtration systems, TFF orchestrates fluid flow parallel to the filter, mitigating clogging issues prevalent in systems where the fluid is forced vertically through the membrane. Renowned for its continuous filtration capabilities and consistent performance, TFF has garnered favor in various applications.

In TFF, particles (permeates) that successfully traverse the membrane are diverted to the side, while retentions undergo recycling back into the feed.

This distinctive approach plays a pivotal role in bioprocessing and purification, facilitating the efficient separation, concentration, and purification of biomolecules and particles within solutions.

Its widespread utilization in biopharmaceutical manufacturing, protein purification, and the removal of contaminants from biological samples underscores TFF’s significance.

The technology’s unique ability to delicately and efficiently process substantial solution volumes, while concurrently minimizing sample loss and preserving the integrity of sensitive molecules, positions it as a crucial tool in both research and industrial settings.

TFF stands as a cornerstone technology, ensuring the seamless advancement of processes in bioprocessing and the production of high-quality products in various sectors.

What is Tangential Flow Filtration

Membrane Filtration Technology and Tangential Flow Filtration

In the realm of membrane filtration techniques and tangential flow filtration, we delve into two distinct methods employed for the separation and purification of biomolecules and particles from biological solutions. These methods exhibit variations in their operational principles and find application in diverse contexts.

Membrane Filtration Technology

Membrane filtration stands out as a widely embraced separation and purification technique grounded in the principles of size exclusion. This encompassing approach incorporates various membrane filtration techniques, including reverse osmosis (RO), nanofiltration (NF), ultrafiltration (UF), microfiltration (MF), and clarification.

The methodology behind membrane filtration revolves around the strategic deployment of microporous membranes to selectively block particles or molecules, effecting the separation of target substances from a solution.

During operation, the solution is propelled through the membrane, where larger particles or molecules are retained on the membrane surface, while smaller entities traverse through the membrane pores. This versatile technology finds extensive utility in eliminating particles, bacteria, viruses, and more, catering to diverse application scenarios in biopharmaceuticals, food processing, and water treatment.

Within the spectrum of membrane filtration technologies, microfiltration and ultrafiltration emerge as the most prevalent choices across various industries. Microfiltration excels in effectively filtering particles within the range of 0.1 to 10 micrometers, such as bacteria.

In contrast, ultrafiltration predominantly serves to separate biomolecules, such as proteins and viruses, within the size range of 0.001 to 0.1 micrometers. Notably, ultrafiltration is recognized for its “gentle” approach, causing minimal denaturation or inactivation of biomolecules during processing. This attribute renders it advantageous for applications involving delicate biomolecules.

Tangential Flow Filtration Technology (TFF)

Tangential Flow Filtration (TFF) stands as a dynamic filtration technology driven by power, achieving efficient separation by inducing a tangential flow of the solution across the filter surface. This unique approach prevents the accumulation of particles on the filter, enhancing overall effectiveness.

During operation, the solution forms a continuous tangential flow along the filter surface, ensuring that particles are carried within the fluid without settling on the membrane surface. TFF finds widespread application in biological separations, protein purification, and the processing of biological samples, particularly in processes requiring both efficiency and gentleness in separations.

In contrast to membrane filtration, which relies on physical isolation by selectively blocking particles or molecules using microporous membranes, TFF technology centers around kinetic principles. By facilitating a tangential flow on the filter surface, TFF avoids the build-up of particles on the filter, contributing to its efficiency. The choice between these technologies typically hinges on specific separation requirements and the unique demands of the application scenario.

Tangential Flow Filtration Technology (TFF)

Tangential Flow Filtration VS Traditional Filtration

Normal Flow Filtration (NFF) and Tangential Flow Filtration (TFF) are two methods commonly used for clarification and separation in biopharmaceutical manufacturing processes. The following diagram will explain the difference between the two and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Feature Normal Flow Filtration (NFF) Tangential Flow Filtration (TFF)
Principle Solution flows vertically through the membrane, retaining large molecules, and allowing small molecules to pass. Utilizes a tangential flow of the solution across the filter surface to prevent particle accumulation, achieving efficient separation.
Advantages 1. Widely applicable, easy to find suitable filters and membranes. 1. No filter cake formation, ensures consistent flow and extends filter membrane life.
2. Simple system setup. 2. Gentle separation, suitable for sensitive biomolecules.
3. Can be used for concentration and diafiltration, facilitating solution exchange.
4. Linear scalability, modular system allows flexible addition of filtration area.
5. Reusable, reduces consumable costs through proper cleaning and storage.
Disadvantages Prone to filter cake formation, leading to reduced filtration efficiency and shortened membrane life. Higher complexity, requires fine-tuning of operating conditions.
Application Simple clarification and low-solid content solutions. Advantages in processes requiring efficient, gentle, and reusable separation.
Decision Criteria Specific separation requirements and application scenarios. Specific separation requirements and application scenarios.

Tangential flow filtration applications

The ideal moments to employ tangential flow filtration (TFF) are during the concentration and percolation processes. Below are some recommendations to enhance the utilization of TFF for these specific procedures.

Optimization of the Concentration Process

Selection of Appropriate Membranes: Choose membranes with suitable pore sizes to permit the passage of smaller solute molecules, facilitating effective concentration.

Operational Parameter Optimization: Precisely manage operational parameters in cross-flow filtration, including flow rate, pressure, and temperature, to optimize concentration efficiency.

Monitoring and Adjustment: Regularly monitor filter performance and make necessary adjustments to maintain consistent concentration results.

Optimization of the Concentration Process

Optimization of the Diafiltration Process

Select Appropriate Membranes and Washes: Opt for membranes with the right pore sizes, allowing target particles to pass through. Employ appropriate buffers during washing to eliminate unwanted solutes.

Process Design Considerations: Ensure a well-designed process that effectively removes by-products, such as salt, through the wash step to uphold the purity of the target particles.

Avoid Overconcentration: Steer clear of overconcentrating the solution during diafiltration to prevent aggregation or crystallization of the target particles.

Tangential flow filtration (TFF) finds diverse applications, including but not limited to:

  • Concentration and Desalting: Proteins, peptides, nucleic acids (DNA, RNA).
  • Separation and Purification: Enzymes, antibodies, recombinant proteins, viruses, vaccines, and more.
  • Buffer Exchange: Solvent removal, dialysis, and related processes.
  • Clarification: Cell lysates, tissue homogenates, and similar samples.
  • Depyrogenation: Examples include water, buffers, and culture media.
  • Cell Collection: Applied in bacterial cultures and virus recovery.
  • Virus Concentration: Utilized for viruses like lysoma measles virus.
  • Clinical Applications: Including hemodialysis and hemoglobin purification.

These applications highlight the versatility of TFF across various fields, showcasing its efficacy in concentration, separation, purification, and other critical processes.

Understanding Turbidity

How can TFF benefit your process?

Unlike conventional filtration methods where the media passes perpendicularly through the membrane, tangential flow filtration (TFF) stands out by allowing the media to flow parallel to the filter passage. This design ensures a steady flow, where permeates are collected while retentions are gently removed through circulation.

Opting for tangential flow filtration as a method not only guarantees consistent results but also safeguards both the filter media and the collected permeate. Beyond these advantages, what other benefits does tangential flow filtration offer?

Advanced Membrane Technology: Utilizes membrane-folded cartridges, reducing extractables by up to 80 times. This eliminates the need for time-consuming pre-rinse and cleaning verification processes.

Fouling-Resistant and Low-Bonding: Engineered to be resistant to fouling and low-bonding, ensuring high product yields.

High Permeability: Exhibits high permeability, leading to reduced processing time for enhanced efficiency.

Robust Membrane Design: Features a robust membrane with a unique asymmetric void-free structure, promoting longer life and minimizing the risk of product loss.

Ready-to-Use Convenience: Requires no hardware installation, providing a ready-to-use solution that enhances ease of operation.

Gentle Treatment: Delicately treats cells, biomolecules, and viruses during the filtration process.

Sanitek offers specially designed disposable, autoclavable, and reusable tangential flow filter elements tailored to meet individual process requirements.

Crafted with proprietary PES membranes and rigorously tested for 100% integrity, each filter element comes in filtration accuracies ranging from 0.1 to 10 microns. This allows for precise selection based on specific separation needs and applications.


In short, normal flow filtration is suitable for simple clarifications and solutions with low solids content, while tangential flow filtration has advantages in separation processes that require high efficiency, gentleness and reusability.

The choice of which technique to use usually depends on the specific separation requirements and application scenario. In this article, we also talk about the differences between Tangential Flow Filtration and Membrane Filtration, both of which are widely used in the life science industry for bioseparations, pharmaceutical applications, and more.

Sanitek specializes in designing tangential flow filtration elements to meet your individual process requirements. We offer a wide range of filter media as well as filter housings, so if you’re not sure which element to choose, contact us for your filtration solution.

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