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How a Smart Multimode Microplate Reader Works

Problem: Microplate readers are a common lab commodity; they’re used across research and drug discovery to detect the occurrence of biological events. However, the potential for experimental errors is a frustrating reality. An incorrect dispensing position, for example, will provide unreliable results—requiring researchers to re-run the assay or, if undetected, lead to faulty data. The same is true if the dispenser isn’t properly primed.

by Thermo Fisher Scientific
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The automatic features in Thermo Scientific’s ™ Varioskan™ LUX multimode microplate reader are designed for bioscience researchers with a wide variety of needs, skills, and assay requirements.

The risks don’t end there; a simple spill inside the instrument can damage optics, while a power outage can erase data. Beyond mistakes and accidents, risks also loom in setting the optimal reading range for each assay. When the application requires both high sensitivity and wide dynamic range to detect both low- and high-signal samples within the same assay, the setup process can be highly complex and time-consuming.

Solution: While it’s impossible to prevent all errors, today’s technology has come a long way. Automatic features, such as those seen in the Thermo Scientific™ Varioskan™ LUX multimode microplate reader, are designed for bioscience researchers with a wide variety of needs, skills, and assay requirements. Built-in smart safety controls alert users to potential problems that could compromise an experiment before they happen, while the automatic dynamic range feature eases protocol setup and works to ensure optimal settings are provided for high sensitivity and wide dynamic range. These features simplify workflows and help researchers avoid wasting precious reagents, samples, and time.

The Varioskan LUX, in particular, is paired with Thermo Scientific SkanIt™ Software, which anticipates potential mistakes at every step of the reading process and alerts users to any issues in a clear and timely manner. An automatic plate check function prevents accidental measurements and keeps reagents from being dispensed inside the instrument without a microplate. Shaking speed and force from the built-in shaker are contained to plate-specific levels in order to avoid liquid spillage inside the instrument.

The microplate reader also includes safety checks for liquid dispensing if the instrument is equipped with dispensers that automatically add reagents. An automatic prime check function confirms the dispenser has been primed prior to starting the run, and a head position sensor verifies that the dispensing head is correctly placed so that liquid will be dispensed into the right wells. Furthermore, a dispensing volume control ensures that liquid volumes do not exceed the limits of the microplate wells. The run simply won’t begin unless all parameters are met.

The microplate reader’s automatic dynamic range selection tool optimizes the measurement settings to simplify protocol set-up. This novel tool overcomes an inherent challenge of many modern microplate readers that use a Xenon flash lamp as their light source. Xenon lamps emit light across a broad spectrum of wavelengths and provide high sensitivity, especially in comparison to the more traditional halogen lamp. But they also have a reduced dynamic range, meaning that users must manually adjust the measurement parameters of each run to widen it, something that can be both difficult and time-consuming.

The incorporation of an automatic dynamic range feature enables the selection of optimal reading ranges from the offset, based on signal intensity within each well. Results are comparable from assay to assay, providing optimal readings even when very high and very low signals are present within a single assay.

Extensive and sophisticated self-diagnostics and autocalibration check the instrument’s functions at every start-up and calibrate the instrument at every run to ensure consistent performance and reliable, comparable results day-to-day.

For more information on the automated features of the Varioskan LUX, please visit or e-mail