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Purchasing Guide: PCR/Thermal Cyclers

When purchasing technology for PCR and qPCR, consider the accuracy of the temperature and fluorescence measurements

by Lab Manager
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Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a technique used to amplify small segments of DNA by cycling through a series of temperatures that facilitate denaturation, annealing, and extension. Building on this, quantitative PCR (qPCR) couples DNA amplification with concentration quantitation in real time. When purchasing technology for PCR and qPCR, consider the accuracy of the temperature and fluorescence measurements, and the robustness of the instrument as it will be running for long periods of time. For a list of manufacturers, see our online directory:

6 Questions to Ask When Buying a Thermal Cycler:

  1. How many samples can the instrument run at a time and can it run more than one protocol simultaneously to increase throughput?
  2. Can the heating block be swapped to accommodate different vessel sizes (e.g., 0.2 mL or 0.5 mL)?
  3. Is the instrument user-friendly?
  4. Does the instrument come with software? 
  5. What is the thermal cyclers ramp rate?
  6. How much space will the instrument take up in your lab?

dPCR Data Integrity

A high-quality digital PCR (dPCR) platform is key to achieving good results. A good dPCR instrument must generate consistent partitions to ensure that the nucleic acid targets are being quantified accurately. Good optics and a stable optical bench in the dPCR instrument will also minimize noise and false positives/negatives. Learn more about ensuring data integrity in digital PCR processes at

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Scaling Up PCR Throughput

The ramp rate—how quickly a thermal cycler ramps between temperatures—determines the speed and duration of a PCR run. Thermal cyclers that have a high ramp rate will complete runs faster, allowing you to process more samples each day. If you’re looking to scale up your PCR processing capabilities, consider investing in a “fast” thermal cycler with a high ramp rate.