Breakdown of immobilisation/separation and morphology changes of yeast suspended in water-rich ethanol mixtures exposed to ultrasonic plane standing waves

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Some physiological/morphological changes have been reported before, when suspended yeasts have been irradiated with well-defined ultrasonic standing, as well as propagating, plane waves around 2.2 MHz, as used in ultrasonic coagulation, e.g., for cell filtering. Thus we used yeast as a biological model to explore the reasons for both those morphology changes and some unusual macroscopic behaviour in the case of water-rich ethanol mixtures when used as carrier liquid. When the cells were suspended in 12% (v/v) ethanol–water mixture separation was greatly reduced; the yeast cells were not retained in the pressure nodal planes of the standing wave, but mixed turbulently through the separation system. How this behaviour alters the efficiency of retention/immobilisation was measured. As the viability of the yeast was decreased as well the morphology of the cells was examined using transmission electron microscopy. Two effects, according to the type of assessment, were evident; a disruption of the cells vacuole and also damage to the cell wall/membrane complex. The extent of the alterations in vacuole structure with sonication time, utilising a fluorescent vacuole membrane dye, was measured. Transient cavitation was not detected and thus could be excluded as being responsible for the observed effects. Other possible reasons for the disruption of the intracellular compartments may be acoustic pressure, displacement or other, secondary effects like (sub) harmonic cavitation. The investigations contribute to a better understanding of the physical conditions experienced when a cell is stressed in a high-frequency ultrasonic wave in the MHz range.

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