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Selecting and Using a Centrifuge

Jul. 22, 2021

Centrifuges spin to generate centrifugal force and are used to separate particles, liquids and other substances with different densities. The denser fraction moves away from the shaft of the centrifuge, while the less dense fraction moves toward the shaft. The particles at the bottom of the sample are the precipitates. The liquid that remains at the top is called the supernatant or supernatant. Depending on the procedure, centrifugation may be performed to capture the sediment or supernatant.



As an important piece of laboratory equipment, it is critical to ensure that the centrifuge is used properly and safely:

First, make sure your centrifuge is in proper working condition. They should be calibrated and serviced annually by the Centrifuge Manufacturer or by a trained service center. Use a tachometer throughout the year to verify that the rotor is moving at the set speed.

Always operate your centrifuge on a smooth horizontal surface and on a firm foundation.

Always balance the tubes in the rotor. Unbalanced tubes moving at high speeds can damage the equipment, causing the tubes to potentially break and/or causing the centrifuge to shake or "walk" on the work surface, which can lead to product failure. If balancing with materials of different densities, use tubes of the same material on opposite sides of the rotor to balance the tubes, and use mass rather than volume for balancing.

If the centrifuge shakes or wobbles during rotation, unplug it and begin troubleshooting. Ensure that the sample load is balanced. If using adapters, make sure all adapters are in place, complete and balanced. Remove the rotor to inspect the bottom of the unit for debris or broken glass. If these checks do not resolve the oscillation problem, contact the manufacturer for repair or service options.

Do not open the lid of the centrifuge while the rotor is in motion. Many models have a safety shut-off device that does not allow opening while in use. However, on some models, you can still open the unit after it has been turned off, but the rotor will continue to spin. A spinning rotor can present safety concerns, including potential hand injuries or accidental projectiles.

Wear goggles when working around the centrifuge to prevent splash/impact injuries. Depending on the chemicals used, a face shield may add secondary protection to the face to prevent chemical burns. Although the centrifuge appears to be safe when running smoothly on your counter, protect your face and eyes from any splashes or impacts that may occur in the event of a centrifuge tube or rotor failure.

Place the centrifuge in a safe location where it will not be hit by others while operating. Move the power cord out of the traffic area so that the centrifuge will not be pulled from the work surface or tripped over.

Centrifuges are sold with or without rotors, and there are many adapter options to accommodate the different sizes of centrifuge tubes on the market. Microcentrifuges can hold tubes as small as 0.2 ml, while larger models can hold bottles up to 500 ml. Centrifuges can even be used for refrigeration to keep samples cold during processing.

By choosing the right model for your needs and using it safely, centrifuges can become a staple in your lab for years to come. We also offer Decanter Centrifuges and screen centrifuges, so please feel free to contact us if you need one!

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