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Intrinsic Viscosity of Macromolecular Solutions - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Viscometry:. Intrinsic Viscosity of Macromolecular Solutions. Annalen der Physik Band 19, 1906, 289-306:. Annalen der Physik Band 34, 1911, 591-592:. Viscosity of biomolecules. Simple, straightforward technique for assaying

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Intrinsic Viscosity of Macromolecular Solutions

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Viscosity of biomolecules

Simple, straightforward technique for assaying

  • Solution conformation of biomolecules & volume/ solvent association

  • Molecular weight of biomolecules

  • Flexibility “ “

Why viscometry?

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Types of Viscometer:

  • “U-tube” (Ostwald or Ubbelohde)

  • “Cone & Plate” (Couette)

Ostwald Viscometer

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Types of Viscometer:

  • “U-tube” (Ostwald or Ubbelohde)

  • “Cone & Plate” (Couette)

Extended Ostwald Viscometer

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Types of Viscometer:

  • “U-tube” (Ostwald or Ubbelohde)

  • “Cone & Plate” (Couette)

Couette-type Viscometer

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Coolant system

Water bath + 0.01oC

Density meter


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For normal (Newtonian) flow behaviour:

t = (F/A) = h . (dv/dy)

Definition of viscosity:

h = t/(dv/dy)

units: (dyn/cm2)/sec-1

= . = POISE (P)

At 20.0oC, h(water) ~ 0.01P

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For normal (Newtonian) flow behaviour:

t = (F/A) = h . (dv/dy)

Definition of viscosity:


shear rate

h = t/(dv/dy)

units: (dyn/cm2)/sec-1

= . = POISE (P)

shear stress

At 20.0oC, h(water) ~ 0.01P

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Viscosity of biomolecular solutions:

A dissolved macromolecule will INCREASE the viscosity of a solution because it disrupts the streamlines of the flow:

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We define the relative viscosityhr as the ratio of the viscosity of the solution containing the macromolecule, h, to that of the pure solvent in the absence of macromolecule, ho:

hr = h/hono units

For a U-tube viscometer, hr = (t/to). (r/ro)

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Reduced viscosity

The relative viscosity depends (at a given temp.) on the concentration of macromolecule, the shape of the macromolecule & the volume it occupies.

If we are going to use viscosity to infer on the shape and volume of the macromolecule we need to eliminate the concentration contribution.

The first step is to define the reduced viscosity

hred = (hr– 1)/c

If c is in g/ml, units of hred are ml/g

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The Intrinsic Viscosity [h]

The next step is to eliminate non-ideality effects deriving from exclusion volume, backflow and charge effects. By analogy with osmotic pressure, we measure hred at a series of concentrations and extrapolate to zero concentration:

[h] = Limc⃗0(hred)

Units of [h] are ml/g

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Form of the Concentration Extrapolation

2 main forms

Huggins equation: hred = [h] (1 + KH[h]c)

Kraemer equation: (lnhr)/c = [h] (1 - KK[h]c)



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A variant of the Huggins equation is:

hred = [h] (1 + kh.c) kh: ml/g

and another important relation is the SOLOMON-CIUTA relation, essentially a combination of the Huggins and Kraemer lines:

[h] ~ (1/c) . [2 (hr – 1) – 2 ln(hr) ] 1/2

The Solomon-Ciuta equation permits the approximate evaluation of [h] without a concentration extrapolation.

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Differential Pressure Viscometer:



hr = 1 + {(4DP).(Pi -2DP)}

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Intrinsic Viscosity and its relation to macromolecular properties

[h] so found depends on the shape, flexibility and degree of (time-averaged) water-binding, and for non-spherical particles the molecular weight:

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M (g/mol) [ propertiesh] (ml/g)

Glucose 180 3.8

Myoglobin 17000 3.25

Ovalbumin 45000 3.49

Hemoglobin 68000 3.6

Soya-bean 11S 350000

Tomato bushy stunt 10.7 x 106 3.4 virus

Fibrinogen 330000 27

Myosin 490000 217

Alginate 200000 700



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Intrinsic Viscosity and Protein Shape and Hydration properties

[h] = n . vs (1)

n: Simha-Saito function (function of shape & flexibility) vs: swollen specific volume, ml/g (function of H2O interaction)

n: Einstein value of 2.5 for rigid spheres >2.5 for other shapes

vs: volume of “hydrated” or “swollen” macromolecule per . unit anhydrous mass

= v + (d/ro) = v . Sw

d: “hydration” (g H2O/g protein)

v: partial specific volume (anhydrous volume per unit anhydrous mass)

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So, 3 forms of Eqn. (1): properties

[h] = n . vs or

[h] = n . {v+ (d/ro)} or

[h] = n . v . Sw

For proteins, v ~ 0.73ml/g, vs ~ 1ml/g, Sw ~ 1.4,

{For polysacchs, v ~ 0.6ml/g, vs>>1ml/g, Sw >>1}

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Getting a shape from the viscosity propertiesn parameter


axial ratio: a/b

Computer program ELLIPS1 downloadable from

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Getting a shape from the viscosity propertiesn parameter

Computer program ELLIPS2 downloadable from

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For more complicated shapes: properties




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The three extremes of macromolecular conformation (COMPACT SPHERE, RIGID ROD, RANDOM COIL) are conveniently represented at the corners of a triangle, known as the HAUG TRIANGLE:

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Each extreme has its own characteristic dependence of [ propertiesh] on M.

Mark-Houwink-Kuhn-Sakurada equation

[h] = K’.Ma

Analagous power law relations exist for sedimentation, diffusion and Rg (classical light scattering)

so20,w= K”.Mb; Do20,w = K’”.M-e; Rg = K””.Mc;

By determining a (or b, e or c) for a homologous series of a biomolecule, we can pinpoint the conformation type

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[ propertiesh] = K’.Ma

a = 0

a = 0.5-0.8

a = 1.8

Globular proteins, a~0.0, polysaccharide, a ~ 0.5 – 1.3

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The intrinsic viscosity is ideal for monitoring conformation change:

Denaturation of ribonuclease

[h] (ml/g)


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The intrinsic viscosity is also ideal for monitoring stability:

Storage of chitosan (used in nasal drug delivery)

Fee et al, 2006

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Demonstration of H-bonding in DNA stability:

Creeth, J.M., Gulland J.M. & Jordan, D.O. (1947) J. Chem. Soc. 1141-1145

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Follow up reference sources: stability:

Serydyuk, I.N., Zaccai, N.R. and Zaccai, J. (2006) Methods in Molecular Biophysics, Cambridge, Chapter D9

Harding, S.E. (1997) "The intrinsic viscosity of biological macromolecules. Progress in measurement, interpretation and application to structure in dilute solution" Prog. Biophys. Mol. Biol68, 207-262.

Tombs, M.P. and Harding, S.E. (1997) An Introduction to Polysaccharide Biotechnology, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 0-78074-405169