Molecular Insight into AC Electric Field Enhanced Removal of Protein Aggregates from a Material Surface

Mei Feng, Sangyun Lee, Chun Chan, Ruhong Zhou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biofouling, caused by unwanted accumulation of the biological molecules on the material surface, is a common problem when medical devices are planted in the human body. Application of an electric field was first suggested in the 1960s along with many other approaches to deactivate the biofouling process. There are experiments showing a higher efficiency in reducing the biofouling using the alternating current (AC) compared to the direct current (DC). Here, using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, we compared the binding stability of a single protein molecule on a graphene surface with either an AC or a DC field was applied. We first showed that the protein molecule, initially attached to the graphene surface, will spontaneously be desorbed by the applied AC electric field, while it remains intact under the DC field of the same voltage. We then revealed that the desorption of the protein by the AC electric field is kinetically controlled. As the orientation of the protein changed alongside the reversing electric field, the protein-graphene interface would be destabilized the most if the AC frequency was close to that of the relaxation of the protein dipole moment (i.e., resonance).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12147-12153
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number44
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


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