A scaling law for membrane permeabilization with nanopulses

Karl Schoenbach, Ravindra Joshi, Stephen Beebe, Carl Baum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Experimental studies of plasma membrane permeabilization, caused by single, intense, submicrosecond square wave pulses, indicate that the product of electric field amplitude and pulse duration (the electrical impulse) can be considered a similarity or scaling factor. A model based on the hypothesis that the intensity of membrane permeabilization effects is linearly dependent on the electric charge transferred through the permeabilized membrane, provides results, which are consistent with the empirical observations. For multiple pulses, bioelectric effects caused by ultrashort pulses were found to scale with the square root of the pulse number. This square root dependence on the pulse number points to a statistical motion of cells between pulses with respect to the applied electric field, and can be explained using an extension of the random walk statistical results to random rotations. Besides membrane permeabilization, the scaling law has also been shown to hold for secondary bioelectric effects, which are caused by permeability changes in the plasma membrane or subcellular membranes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5293932
Pages (from-to)1224-1235
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2009


  • Electropermeabilization
  • Electroporation
  • Membrane effects
  • Nanoporation
  • Nanosecond electric fields
  • Random rotation


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