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A lab centrifuge is a device that is used to separate fluids depending on their density. The centrifugal force achieved by spinning the vessel pushes the heavy materials to the outside. Laboratory centrifuges are used in academic and clinical fields and accomplish several centrifugal applications.
There are various laboratory centrifuges, usually categorized according to the use, size, or rotor. Regardless of how different laboratory centrifuges are, they still use the same sedimentation processes.
How do Centrifuges Work?
All types of centrifuges separate liquid and gas particles as per the size and density of the particles, rotor speed, and viscosity. The centrifugal and gravitational forces separate even the particles with minute differences.
The versatility of a centrifuge is determined by the optical detection, refrigeration capability, size, and rotor velocity. When choosing a centrifuge, you must know the different types and how they are used. Below are the variety of lab centrifuges used in academic, research, and clinical labs.
Benchtop centrifuges are noticeable by their small bench space. They have different features; all adapted to the various research needs. The centrifuges have a speed (RCF) of a few hundred to more than 50,000 x g.
They also have interchangeable rotors ranging from a fixed angle, continuous flow, and swinging buckets. Benchtop centrifuges have tubes that measure under a milliliter to several liters.
Clinical Benchtop Centrifuges
These centrifuges are low-speed, making them suitable for separating bodily fluids, plasma, serum, red blood cells, and other whole blood components. Most clinical benchtop centrifuge models are for standard blood draw tubes.
If you want a more versatile model, be sure to check with the specific tube sizes, adapters, and rotors. The centrifuges have a speed of between 200 rpm and 6,000 rpm.
Refrigerated Benchtop Centrifuges
Refrigerated centrifuges are specialized for samples (like protein, animal samples, and live cells) that must be kept at certain temperatures and speeds. The centrifuges accommodate samples of up to 1ml.
The temperature range of refrigerated benchtop models lies between –20 to –40-degree Celsius. These conditions are ideal for DNA, PCR, antibodies, RNA, chloroplast, and plasma. The rotors on these models could be swing buckets, fixed, or both.
Also known as concentrators, vacuum centrifuges usually remove the liquid or gas from a sample for desiccation or concentration purposes. Concentrators use the vacuum to purify proteins, nucleic acids, peptides, and other components to be used in research or biological procedures.
Some models are equipped with heating systems that evaporate fluids from the sample.
Judging from the name, you can tell that this category of centrifuges is compact and has a smaller footprint than the rest. Microcentrifuges are for use with tubes measuring 0.5ml to 2.0 ml and PCR tubes. For this reason, they are primarily used in biological procedures.
Some models have interchangeable rotors tube adapters for use with different tube sizes. Microcentrifuges spin at speeds of 5,000 x g – 30, 000 x g, depending on how upgraded the device is.
There are two types of this category; refrigerated microcentrifuges and temperature ambient microcentrifuges. They are mostly used in microfiltration to hold pelleting nucleic acids and pelleting proteins.
Ultracentrifuges have an acceleration speed of up to 1 000 000 x g, which is substantially high. This feature makes them great for separating fluid molecules with slight differences. Ultracentrifuges are available in two categories:
Preparative ultracentrifuges are specially designed to separate liquid particles depending on their densities. Denser particles are separated for pellet collection, and suspensions with particles are clarified and purified.
Preparative centrifuges are also used in:
- Isolation of macromolecules, plasma components, and lipoprotein elements
- De-protonation processes
- Separation of physiological fluids, and;
- Study of amino acids
You can add different rotors with various spinning techniques and several tube sizes.
Analytical centrifuges have a light-based optical detecting feature that allows researchers to monitor samples as they spin in real-time. The system helps you see the sedimentation of liquid particles as it happens. You can see the centrifugal force getting stronger as the sample spins.
The types of optical-based systems used by these centrifuges include the Rayleigh interferometric system, light absorption system, and the alternative Schlieren system.
Maintaining a Laboratory Centrifuge
Lab centrifuges are very delicate devices, and like other equipment used for research, they should be treated and maintained with care. By taking the steps below, you will increase the centrifuge’s lifespan and avoid lab-related accidents.
First off, ensure you always keep the centrifuge lubricated. The rings in the centrifuge are critical as they prevent leaking of the sample. Therefore, lubricating the rings after repairs, rotor installation, and cleaning go a long way.
Next, regularly check for any damages, unfamiliar noises and vibrations, and grinding. If you notice any of these warning signs, turn off the machine and hire professional repair services. Also, inspect the centrifuge for any rotor malfunctions, scratches, and wear or tear.
You should also clean the centrifuge regularly using alcohol-based disinfectants and a soft washcloth. The daily cleaning routine should include the rotor, centrifuge’s interior, rotor chamber, surfaces, and electrical components. Cleaning the centrifuge daily prevents damage that will cost more to fix.
Finally, ensure that everyone who uses the device is aware of the dos and don’ts of operating a centrifuge. This includes balancing the equipment, setting the buckets on the pins, checking and managing the rotors, adjusting the speed and compartment mass.
While the mentioned categories are the main types of centrifuges used in laboratories, other types are preserved for large-scale labs only. The above guidelines should help you understand the centrifuges for clinical, biological, academic, and scientific research.
When choosing a laboratory centrifuge, you should check the speed, size, application, and rotor system. Whatever your lab requirements are, you can be sure to find a suitable centrifuge at local and international vendor stores.
Remember always to confirm that the laboratory centrifuge is a product of a certified manufacturer before investing in one.