Sedimentation equilibrium in a solution or suspension of different particles, such as molecules, exists when the rate of transport of each material in any one direction due to sedimentation equals the rate of transport in the opposite direction due to diffusion. Sedimentation is due to an external force, such as gravity (for very large particles) or centrifugal force in a centrifuge.
Modern applications use the analytical ultracentrifuge. The theoretical basis for the measurements is developed from the Mason-Weaver equation. The advantage of using analytical sedimentation equilibrium analysis for Molecular Weight of proteins and their interacting mixtures is the avoidance of need for derivation of a frictional coefficient, otherwise required for interpretation of dynamic sedimentation.
Application in determining molecular mass
Sedimentation equilibrium can be used to determine molecular mass. It forms the basis for an analytical ultracentrifugation method for measuring molecular masses, such as those of proteins, in solution.