A Guide to the Laboratory Centrifuge

Laboratory Centrifuge:


  • A Laboratory Centrifuge is a very common laboratory equipment which is driven by a motor.
  • It spins the liquid samples placed inside it (the centrifuge) at very high speeds.
  • The Laboratory Centrifuges are available in many different types and mainly depend on the size and sample capacity that is required.
  • it is a piece of equipment that utilizes the principle of Centrifugal force.
  • Centrifugal force is an outward pushing force felt by the bodies moving in a circular motion.
  • The fact of the matter is that there is no outward force acting on body and thus this force (centrifugal force) is also known as a fictitious force.
  • This force generated is as a result of the combined effect of inertia and an inward pushing external force.
  • The centrifugal force only comes into play when the rotating objects are observed from the rotating of reference, an accelerating and therefore non-inertial frame of reference in the Newton’s laws of motion do not hold.
  • This force can be explained with a quick example of a child on a merry go round.
  • When the merry go round is rotating there is no real outward force but the child present on the merry go round needs to exert a force to prevent from falling off.
  • Thus greater the speed of rotation, the greater is the outward force.
  • The way this works is by creating a centrifugal force within the centrifuge by spinning the sample around a gravitational axis.
  • This causes force within the mixture also known as G-forces.
  • The separation process is influenced by the speed of rotation.
  • Once the mixture has been separated it can analysed and tested further.

Types of laboratory centrifuges:


  • There are many different types of laboratory centrifuges and each device has a specific use.
  • Thus it is important to match the device with the application.
  • One should always use the right tool for the job; as the saying goes — Half the job is done when you pick the right tool.
  • The different types of centrifuges are listed here:


These devices are used from small tubes from about 0.2 ml to 2.0 ml (micro tubes). There are usually compact in design and have a small footprint.

Clinical centrifuges:

These devices are mainly used for clinical applications likes blood collection tubes and are low speed devices.

Multipurpose bench top centrifuges:

These devices can be used for a broader range of tube sizes and have a high variability and bigger footprint.

Stand alone centrifuges:

These are heavy devices.

In addition to which there are centrifuges which have additional features like refrigeration. This is mainly for to maintain the proper temperature of the samples.

Use of Laboratory Centrifuge:

  • Laboratory Centrifuges are mainly used for testing liquids and other substances.
  • This includes substances like blood and other toxic material as well.
  • They can be used for separating substances of varying densities.
  • In addition to which they are also used for removing chylomicrons.
  • Some of the many uses includes steroid hormone assays, separating lipoprotein fractions for HDL, LDL and VLDL.
  • However there are many uses of a centrifuge in a laboratory.
  • It can be used in science and medical laboratories to separate proteins and chemicals by applying the centrifugal force to the container (as we discussed earlier).
  • The process separates substances of different densities.
  • Thus if we were to use blood as our sample, it would separate the plasma from the blood which is required for many different testing procedures. Furthermore blood banks also need them for the same reason.
  • The laboratory centrifuges at the blood banks are specially designed in fact.
  • They separate the blood and blood components from the whole blood like platelet, plasma, TBC and Crypectipitate.
  • Some of the other uses of a laboratory centrifuge include testing urine samples.
  • These test provide comprehensive results and help revel the virus resident in the specimen of the sick patient.
  • Chemical companies have also found this device quite useful for chemical analysis. In fact the cosmetic industry makes extensive use of centrifuges devices.

Benefits of having a Laboratory Centrifuge:

  • A laboratory centrifuge is a very versatile device that can utilize centrifugal force to separate substances of various different densities.
  • Thus in places like Blood banks where they require to separate the various different components of the blood sample in order to process it further; a laboratory centrifuge equipment is very useful.
  • That is just one process where a centrifuge comes in handy.
  • Centrifuges devices are also accompanied with a cooling device to keep them cool if the type of samples being used require that.
  • To top it all these devices are very easy to use.
  • It is important to note that it should not be operated without proper training.
  • But in general they are easy to operate and usually come with a few safety features. For example if the device is on and you happen to open the lid;
  • There is an auto shut down feature which shuts down the centrifuge. However it is necessary to operate it properly. For example it is required that you place an another test tube with sample of equal volume opposite to your sample in order to balance the centrifuge device. Failure to do so could result in a mess.
  • This is especially important when dealing with highly toxic substances.

Speed of the laboratory centrifuge:

  • The laboratory centrifuge is a device which is driven by a motor This spins the liquid samples at high speeds in order to effect the separation.
  • The speed of the laboratory centrifuge however varies as per the application of the device. For example a clinical centrifuge being used for blood collections tubes is a relatively slow speed device.
  • It is important to note that the samples should be properly balanced. Since when there are spun at such great speeds even a slight imbalance can cause result in a large force imbalance.
  • This could damage the centrifuge and even injure the operator in case of toxic substances.
  • There are also high speed centrifuges available although the application of such centrifuges differ.
  • It is important to consult a valid source for the necessary speed settings.

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