Debbie Knight

Luxury lab equipment not always an option

In observation on July 31, 2012 at 9:00 am

A sales flyer was slipped under my lab door by a sales rep from a scientific supply company.

This happens from time to time.

But what caught my eye was the “PCR Plate Spinner” ad with a sale price of $449.

This is probably an excellent price for this piece of lab equipment.

For those of you wondering what the heck a “plate spinner” is: it is a motorized contraption in which you put a plastic plate that has 96 little “cups” (or wells) built into it. Liquids that you put into these little cups can cling to the sides, so you use “centrifugal force” to collect those little droplets at the bottom of the cup. (For “centrifugal force,” think amusement park ride where people are strapped into a large rotating drum. As it spins, people are smooshed against the outside wall. In some versions, the floor drops out in the middle of the ride and the people stay stuck against the side. This is what we call “centrifugal force” — the quotation marks are there because this force doesn’t really exist, but that’s more of a discussion for a physicist than a biologist).

The lab in which I used to work had a more economical way to spin their plates to collect all the liquid in the bottom of the cup: they used a salad spinner equipped with rubber bands to hold the plate in place. A salad spinner that you could get at any local retail store or even a garage sale. Cost: between $1 – $20.

Besides the cost savings, this “home-spun” version can save time. You can spin four plates at one time (rather than a single plate in the spinner from the scientific supply company).

A win-win!

(not that I’m saying I’d pass up an opportunity to have the luxury electric-powered spinner)

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  1. The flyer was slipped under your door? Do you lock it to keep the sales reps away? :)

  2. Which salad spinner did you use? 4 plates is bigger than most of the spinners I’ve seen.

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