In biotechnological terms, electroporation is a laboratory method used to create recombinant organisms by introducing foreign DNA into cells. An apparatus is used to generate a very short electrical charge which passes through the cell suspension. The electric charge causes very small, and short-lived, holes to form in the cell membrane. Vectors containing the foreign DNA, which are also suspended in the solution, move into the cells through these holes.
The electroporation protocol is based on the physics of electrical conductivity and permeability of cell membranes. A pulsed charge of about 10,000 to 100,000 V/cm, depending on cell size, is used to alter the transmembrane voltage along the cell membrane. The pulse lasts a few microseconds to one millisecond. Beyond a certain voltage threshold, too much charge will destroy the cells. However, short bursts of the right charge will temporarily interrupt the phospholipid bilayer, allowing macromolecules like plasmids, to pass through. After the charge is removed, the bilayer will reassemble itself.
Electroporation results in random uptake of DNA, in that not all cells take up the vector. Therefore, there needs to be a method of detecting which cells have taken it up, or are expressing the foreign DNA, such as a bioindicator of expression (fluorescence) or antibiotic resistance conferred on the vector along with the gene of interest.