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Why does separation time increase more quickly than the production volume?

A recognized problem in the Magnetic Bead1 Separation industry is that when one increases the batch size to scale up production of magnetic beads, the magnetic separation process time increases unproportionally to the increase in volume if one is working with standard magnetic separation devices.

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This post is about Magnetic Bead Separation in the production of magnetic beads for IVD kits. If you want to know its most important elements, download our free eBook The Basic guide to use Magnetic Bead Separation in production processes:

Why does this happen in a magnetic separation process?

The fact is that classic magnetic separation systems generate, by their very nature, non-homogeneous magnetic fields which in turn generate non-homogeneous forces on the magnetic beads. Standard magnetic separation racks are not optimized to allow the beads to experience the same magnetic states (either linear or saturated).

Instead, under standard magnetic separation conditions, some beads are saturated and some beads are in the superparamagnetic range. In addition, these devices do not generate a controlled magnetic field pattern, thus preventing the technician from developing a clear understanding of the parameters necessary for efficient and consistent production.

If the magnetic beads are not saturated, thus are farther from the magnet, they will have a small magnetic moment and it will be difficult for them to interact with neighboring beads. When beads are saturated, the beads interact with each other and form long chains, allowing them to move more quickly to the retention zone. The result of non-saturation is that every bead will move as an insulated bead and will not be able to take advantage of the movement properties of the long chained-beads.

Individual bead movement can actually be several orders of magnitude slower than the movement of collective chains of beads. On a small scale, this is not a problem because separation takes only seconds to minutes. But if one moves to a larger volume, this difference is pronounced and full separation takes many hours or days instead of seconds or minutes.

If you found this post about using Magnetic Bead Separation for production useful, don’t forget to check these related posts:

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Lluis M. Martínez | SEPMAG Chief Scientific Officer

Founder of SEPMAG, Lluis holds a PhD in Magnetic Materials by the UAB. He has conducted research at German and Spanish academic institutions. Having worked in companies in Ireland, USA and Spain, he has more than 20 years of experience applying magnetic materials and sensors to industrial products and processes. He has filed several international patents on the field and co-authored more than 20 scientific papers, most of them on the subject of magnetic particle movement.

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