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Biophys J. Nov 1997; 73(5): 2771–2781.
PMCID: PMC1181179

Quantitative spatially resolved measurements of mass transfer through laryngeal cartilage.

Abstract

The scanning electrochemical microscope (SECM) is a scanned probe microscope that uses the response of a mobile ultramicroelectrode (UME) tip to determine the reactivity, topography, and mass transport characteristics of interfaces with high spatial resolution. SECM strategies for measuring the rates of solute diffusion and convection through samples of cartilage, using amperometric UMEs, are outlined. The methods are used to determine the diffusion coefficients of oxygen and ruthenium(III) hexamine [Ru(NH3)6(3+)] in laryngeal cartilage. The diffusion coefficient of oxygen in cartilage is found to be approximately 50% of that in aqueous electrolyte solution, assuming a partition coefficient of unity for oxygen between cartilage and aqueous solution. In contrast, diffusion of Ru(NH3)6(3+) within the cartilage sample cannot be detected on the SECM timescale, suggesting a diffusion coefficient at least two orders of magnitude lower than that in solution, given a measured partition coefficient for Ru(NH3)6(3+) between cartilage and aqueous solution, Kp = [Ru(NH3)6(3+)]cartilage/[RU(NH3)6(3+)]solution = 3.4 +/- 0.1. Rates of Ru(NH3)6(3+) osmotically driven convective transport across cartilage samples are imaged at high spatial resolution by monitoring the current response of a scanning UME, with an osmotic pressure of approximately 0.75 atm across the slice. A model is outlined that enables the current response to be related to the local flux. By determining the topography of the sample from the current response with no applied osmotic pressure, local transport rates can be correlated with topographical features of the sample surface, at much higher spatial resolution than has previously been achieved.

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