Catching the Electroporation Wave

Exponential Decay versus Square

By Michelle M. Ng, Ph. D.


Electroporators can come in multiple electrical waveform styles and typically allow you to vary the characteristics of the electrical pulse settings. Every cell type is unique in terms of which pulse characteristics work best. Field Strength (€, usually expressed in V/cm) is dependent on the pulse parameters applied (voltage, capacitance and resistance) and the distance between the electrode or cuvette contacts. Application of this electrical field causes Electropermeabilization (transient pores in the cell membrane through induction of transmembrane voltage) allowing nucleic acids to pass through the cell membrane.

The two main different types of pulses used for electroporation of nucleic acids:

  • Exponential Decay Wave is typically used for cells with cell walls such as bacteria and yeast. The generator hits the peak voltage at the beginning of the pulse then decreases over time.

  • Square Wave is generally used for mammalian cells and tissues at a lower field strength than exponential decay. The generator jumps up to the set voltage and holds steady for the desired pulse length. 

Whether you are looking to ride a short or long wave make sure you make note of dependents that factor in to your labs work. Check back next time when we “Attack the Target using CAR-T cells.