Nitrocellulose Membrane vs. Nylon Membrane

What's the Difference?

Nitrocellulose membrane and nylon membrane are both commonly used in various laboratory applications, particularly in protein analysis and nucleic acid transfer. Nitrocellulose membrane is made from cellulose and is known for its high protein binding capacity, making it ideal for Western blotting and protein sequencing. On the other hand, nylon membrane is made from nylon polymers and is known for its high mechanical strength and chemical resistance. It is commonly used in Southern and Northern blotting techniques due to its ability to bind nucleic acids effectively. While both membranes have their unique advantages, the choice between nitrocellulose and nylon ultimately depends on the specific experimental requirements and desired outcomes.


AttributeNitrocellulose MembraneNylon Membrane
Pore SizeVariesVaries
Protein Binding CapacityHighLow
Chemical ResistanceLess resistantMore resistant
Membrane ThicknessThinThin
ApplicationsWestern blotting, dot/slot blotting, nucleic acid transferProtein purification, DNA/RNA hybridization, microarray analysis

Further Detail


Membrane technology plays a crucial role in various scientific and industrial applications, including filtration, separation, and analysis. Two commonly used types of membranes are nitrocellulose and nylon membranes. While both serve similar purposes, they possess distinct attributes that make them suitable for specific applications. In this article, we will compare the attributes of nitrocellulose membrane and nylon membrane, exploring their differences and highlighting their unique features.

Physical Properties

Nitrocellulose membranes are composed of a thin, porous film made from nitrocellulose, a highly flammable compound derived from cellulose. These membranes are typically transparent and have a smooth surface. On the other hand, nylon membranes are made from a synthetic polymer known as nylon, which is a thermoplastic material. Nylon membranes are usually white and possess a slightly rougher surface compared to nitrocellulose membranes.

Both nitrocellulose and nylon membranes are available in various pore sizes, ranging from 0.1 to 10 micrometers. The pore size determines the molecular weight cutoff and the ability of the membrane to retain or allow the passage of specific molecules. Nitrocellulose membranes are commonly used for protein analysis and nucleic acid transfer, while nylon membranes are often preferred for DNA and RNA hybridization studies.

Chemical Compatibility

One of the significant differences between nitrocellulose and nylon membranes lies in their chemical compatibility. Nitrocellulose membranes are highly sensitive to organic solvents, such as ethanol and methanol, which can cause the membrane to dissolve or become damaged. In contrast, nylon membranes exhibit excellent chemical resistance and can withstand exposure to a wide range of solvents, including alcohols, acids, and bases.

This difference in chemical compatibility makes nylon membranes more versatile in various applications, especially when working with samples that require harsh solvents or aggressive washing steps. Nitrocellulose membranes, on the other hand, are more suitable for applications where organic solvents are not involved, such as protein detection using antibody-based assays.

Binding Capacity

Another important attribute to consider when comparing nitrocellulose and nylon membranes is their binding capacity for biomolecules. Nitrocellulose membranes have a high affinity for proteins, making them ideal for Western blotting and protein detection. The positively charged nitrocellulose surface interacts with negatively charged proteins, facilitating their immobilization on the membrane.

In contrast, nylon membranes have a lower binding capacity for proteins but exhibit higher binding efficiency for nucleic acids. The nylon surface carries a negative charge, allowing for strong electrostatic interactions with positively charged DNA or RNA molecules. This property makes nylon membranes well-suited for Southern and Northern blotting techniques, where the detection of specific DNA or RNA sequences is required.

Handling and Durability

When it comes to handling and durability, nitrocellulose membranes are more delicate compared to nylon membranes. Nitrocellulose membranes can tear easily, requiring careful handling to avoid damage. They are also more prone to degradation over time, especially when exposed to high humidity or extreme temperatures.

On the other hand, nylon membranes are more robust and less prone to tearing. They can withstand harsh handling and are generally more durable, making them suitable for repeated use. Nylon membranes also exhibit better resistance to environmental factors, such as humidity and temperature fluctuations, ensuring their stability during storage and experimental procedures.


Both nitrocellulose and nylon membranes find applications in various scientific fields. Nitrocellulose membranes are commonly used in protein analysis techniques, such as Western blotting and dot blot assays. Their high protein binding capacity and compatibility with antibody-based detection methods make them valuable tools for protein detection and quantification.

Nylon membranes, on the other hand, are widely employed in nucleic acid analysis and hybridization studies. Their ability to efficiently bind DNA and RNA molecules, combined with their chemical resistance, makes them suitable for techniques like Southern and Northern blotting, as well as DNA microarray analysis.

Furthermore, both types of membranes can be used for filtration and separation purposes. Nitrocellulose membranes are often utilized for particle filtration and concentration, while nylon membranes are preferred for the separation of biomolecules based on size or charge.


In conclusion, nitrocellulose and nylon membranes possess distinct attributes that make them suitable for different applications. Nitrocellulose membranes offer high protein binding capacity and are compatible with antibody-based protein detection methods. On the other hand, nylon membranes exhibit excellent chemical resistance, higher binding efficiency for nucleic acids, and better durability. Understanding the unique features of each membrane type allows scientists and researchers to choose the most appropriate membrane for their specific experimental needs.

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