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Centrifuges: Safe and Energy-efficient Spinners Come in a Wide Range of Sizes

Today’s centrifuges are more sophisticated than ever. Consequently, customers can find platforms that fit right into today’s wide range of centrifuge applications. In fact, Nick Horsley, general manager at Hettich Instruments in Beverly, Massachusetts, says, “Centrifuge accessories have become very important.” Those accessories can help a lab select a system that can multitask.

Mike May, PhD

Mike May is a freelance writer and editor living in Texas.

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Many centrifuge customers want the capability of processing more samples in less space. Peter Will, centrifuge product manager at Labnet International—a part of Corning Life Sciences located in Edison, New Jersey—explains: “Customers are asking us to keep the footprint of centrifuges small but increase the capacity, by redesigning rotors to accommodate more tubes.” In many cases, that spawns advances in benchtop devices. “Many people want the capacity of a floor-model unit of the past but in a benchtop style,” says Will.

Some companies even use sophisticated technology to provide advanced capabilities in centrifuges. For example, Horsley says, “Enhanced computer-aided design helps us to maximize the volumes.”

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Beyond making centrifuges smaller in size while providing as much room as possible for samples, a new centrifuge might also improve the overall laboratory environment. As an example, Horsley says, “We try to make a centrifuge quieter by using new materials.” He adds that this can come from “designing the device in a way that makes air flow through more quietly.”

A modern centrifuge might also make better use of energy. As Horsley says, “We’re trying to make centrifuges a lot greener. If we can use materials that are lighter and stronger then we can accelerate quicker, and use less energy to drive the rotor.”

Crucial features

Flexibility also comes with some new devices. “Lots of users want a centrifuge design that lets them quickly take a rotor off and quickly put it back on,” says Will.

In buying a new centrifuge, Will encourages buyers to know what they’ll be spinning, what tube sizes they’ll need, what G force for spinning and so on. For example, Will asks: “Do you need an aerosol-tight lid?”

Also, to get the most from an investment, a buyer might add capacity in the calculation. “Customers don’t always look at the cost per how many tubes in a given run,” Will says, “but that can help in platform comparisons.”

Perhaps more than anything, a centrifuge needs to be safe. Horsley says, “One of the cardinal rules is that a user cannot open the lid during operation, but that can still happen on some brands and some of the older units in the field.”

Safety in a centrifuge also involves containment. “If something breaks inside,” says Horsley, “it has to be contained. So centrifuges must be crash tested.” Consequently, he says, “We double up on things to make sure that if one fails the other doesn’t.”

These features—from space and energy efficiency to ease of use and safety testing—make modern centrifuges more advanced than ever. Upgrading to a new one can help researchers get more work done and in a safer environment.

For additional resources on centrifuges, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit