Reduction of the contribution of electrode polarization effects in the radiowave dielectric measurements of highly conductive biological cell suspensions

F. Bordi, C. Cametti, T. Gili

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electrode polarization effects in dielectric spectra of highly conductive biological cell suspensions cause a severe difficulty in the estimation of dielectric parameters of cells under physiological conditions. This problem becomes particularly serious with the increase of the electrical conductivity of the sample, preventing the use of low frequencies in the characterization of biological systems, especially aqueous biological systems. Although a variety of methods to correct the electrode polarization have been proposed in the past, no simple technique for its correction has been available so far. Since the magnitude of the polarization effect can be time-dependent owing to changes in the conductance of the suspending medium or to possible alteration in the electrode surface structure, it is clear that correction procedure should be based on a kind of "self-correction" method, avoiding the so-called "comparison methods" which, on the contrary, require time-independent effects. This note is aimed to address this problem considering an electrode polarization modelled by a constant phase angle (CPA) element in series with the sample admittance. A scaling-law frequency dependence has found to describe the a.c. response of the interface between the electrode and the bulk electrolyte solution. Although this approach has been extensively proposed in the past in the analysis of dielectric spectra of biological suspensions, we have somewhat modified the way it has been previously applied and have re-examined in detail its effectiveness in typical systems of biological interest. The results give support to the proposed analysis, allowing the complete low-frequency dielectric spectra characterization at frequencies of the order of 1 kHz for samples with a bulk ionic conductivity as large as that of the order of 1 mho/m. Typical examples with different dielectric behaviours are extensively discussed in order to show the applicability of the proposed method to biological samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-61
Number of pages9
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Cell suspension
  • Electrode polarization
  • Radiowave

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Electrochemistry
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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