Tangential Flow Filtration

In fields such as biochemistry, immunology, and microbiology, the separation and purification of biological material is paramount to the forward march of innovation.

As such, lab experts have developed tangential flow filtration, which succeeds at:

  • Removing cells from cell culture broths
  • Diafiltration
  • Fractionation
  • Concentration

What Is Tangential Flow Filtration?

Tangential flow filtration (TFF) is an efficient and cost-effective way of removing impurities from large-volume samples. It involves using a filter to separate or isolate contaminant particles. Unlike dead-end filtration, in TFF fluid is circulated across, rather than forced through, a filter, resulting in a pressure differential that keeps contaminants from re-mixing with newly purified samples.

Samples flow parallel to a filter and can be recycled repeatedly through a reservoir. Types of TFF include:

  • Microfiltration
  • Nanofiltration
  • Ultrafiltration

Tangential Flow Filtration Advantages

There are many advantages to a tangential flow filtration system, including:

  • Ease of use: pump, gauge, and tubing setup is simple (as in the picture below). Along with the sample in the reservoir, the system is fully operable
  • Speed of results: TFF operates continuously (rather than in batches) and rapidly separates and purifies biomolecules
  • Ability to multitask: Lab workers can concentrate and diafilter samples on the same filtration system
  • Flexibility: TFF units can process samples as small as 10 mL and as large as several thousands of liters

When To Use a Tangential Flow Filtration System

TFF is best used for large-scale separation and filtration processes such as:

  • Protein isolation from culture supernatants
  • Recovering and purifying antibodies, plasmid DNA, or recombinant proteins
  • Extracting endotoxins from buffers, water, and media solutions
  • Clarifying fermentation broths
  • Harvesting cells
  • Preparing chromatography samples
  • Fractionating dilute protein mixtures
  • Concentrating and desalting proteins and peptides
  • TFF can handle a large surface area and filter larger volumes without clogging

TFF in Action

TFF used in research of viruses.

  • TFF setup using a Masterflex peristaltic pump system produced results with a higher concentration of viruses captured by the tangential flow filter than that from a system with less filtration control.
  • Case study: Study of the viruses that inhabit the intestines of a cow. To conduct this research, the researcher set up a system using a Masterflex® L/S® Peristaltic Pump and pump head with silicone tubing, pressure gauges, and fittings to mount gauges inline and to connect to the filter. He ran samples from a reservoir through the peristaltic pump and the pressure gauge into the tangential flow filter. He used two filters in separate processes: a 0.2 µm filter to remove bacteria and a <100 kD filter to concentrate the viruses.

TFF has been used by vintners and oenologists — winemakers and wine scientists —to:

  • Produce cleaner wines
  • Filter out cellular debris
  • Cut costs on bottling final filters

TFF has also found its way into food and pharmaceutical processing, where continuous purification speeds the innovation process.

Recommended TFF Equipment

Masterflex® recommends the following TFF equipment:

  • Masterflex® peristaltic digital process drives and pump heads — which meet all requirements and maintain sample integrity. Choose dual-channel pump heads so both filters can run simultaneously.
  • Masterflex® silicone tubing
  • Tangential flow filters
  • Pressure gauges
  • Fittings to mount gauges and connect the filter

Whatever your filtration needs, Masterflex® offers the latest, best-quality solutions, always at scale.