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Lab shakers are highly specialized laboratory equipment that facilitate the controlled agitation of samples during scientific experiments. These devices are typically used to mix, blend, or agitate solutions in different research applications, including microbiology, chemistry, food science, biotechnology, and material science. In this article, we will cover the basics of lab shakers and explore their typical applications, features, and benefits.
What is a Lab Shaker?
A lab shaker is a device that shakes or moves samples in containers such as test tubes, microplates, or flasks as part of a research procedure. Shaking is usually carried out through an oscillating or orbital movement in a horizontal or vertical plane. Some lab shakers come with temperature-controlled chambers, adding to their versatility for certain applications.
Lab shakers are used in various laboratories, including academic research departments, industrial research and development facilities, and medical research institutions.
Other applications include environmental monitoring and control. These devices generate precise, controlled oscillations, facilitated by a motor mechanism, that agitates or stirs samples to ensure uniformity of composition.
Types of Lab Shakers
There are various kinds of lab shakers available on the market, each suited to specific applications. Some types are more versatile than others, while others are designed to meet specific experimental needs. Here are some of the most commonly used lab shakers.
1. Orbital Shakers
Orbital shakers, also called platform shakers, are the most popular type of lab shakers. They usually consist of a flat platform that holds a number of samples in containers of varying sizes, including flasks, microplates, and test tubes. The platform moves in a circular, orbital path to ensure that the samples are thoroughly mixed and agitated.
2. Reciprocating Shakers
Reciprocating shakers use a mechanism that moves the platform in a back-and-forth motion to shake the samples. This motion is especially suited to experiments requiring gentle agitation or slow mixing, such as cell cultures or staining procedures.
3. Rocking Shakers
Rocking shakers are designed to shake samples on a platform that moves in a see-saw or rocking motion. These devices are ideal for mixing and agitating liquid suspensions in containers with a small volume, such as petri dishes, while avoiding splashing.
4. Vortex Shakers
Vortex shakers are specialized shakers that work by shaking individual tubes or vials rather than using the platform shaking mechanism. These devices create a circular motion in the sample, causing it to mix and agitate rapidly.
Features of Lab Shakers
The design of lab shakers commonly includes features to improve the user’s experience and the effectiveness of the device. Some of the notable features include:
1. Digital and Programmable Control:
Lab shakers often come equipped with programmable digital control panels, enabling users to program specific operating parameters such as time, speed, and temperature.
2. Timers and Alarms:
Lab shakers often come with timers that alert users when the preset operating time has elapsed or reaches a designated speed.
3. Speed Regulation:
Lab shakers usually come with variable speed regulation, allowing users to adjust the motor’s speed to achieve different oscillation frequencies.
4. Temperature Control:
Some models feature a temperature-controlled motor chamber, enabling researchers to maintain precise temperature control of samples’ surroundings, making them perfect for temperature-sensitive samples.
5. Safety Features:
Lab shakers often include safety features such as automatic shut-off in case of overheating or overloading to prevent damage to the samples being tested.
Applications of Lab Shakers
Lab shakers have countless applications in various scientific fields. Some notable applications include:
Lab shakers play a crucial role in microbiology research by facilitating the growth of microorganisms in culture media.
Lab shakers are essential for mixing and blending chemicals in pharmaceutical development, environmental monitoring, and drug discovery.
3. Food Science:
Lab shakers allow for controlled mixing of food ingredients to test various tastes and textures to guide food formulation.
By agitating cell cultures, lab shakers enable researchers to study and optimize metabolic processes necessary for biotechnological applications, such as drug screening and industrial fermentation.
5. Material Science:
Lab shakers are used to investigate the physical and chemical properties of materials like polymers, metals, and nanomaterials.
Benefits of Lab Shakers
Lab shakers have numerous benefits, including:
1. Consistent and Uniform Mixing:
Lab shakers provide even mixing by exposing the sample to a controlled and predictable mixing environment.
Using lab shakers saves time and reduces the workload by allowing researchers to process multiple samples simultaneously.
Lab shakers are available in several designs, sizes, and functionalities that cater to every need.
4. Reduction in Cross-Contamination:
Lab shakers reduce the chances of cross-contamination by ensuring that each sample is properly agitated.
Consistent agitation and an even heat distribution of assays means that lab shakers produce highly reproducible results.
In conclusion, lab shakers are indispensable devices for any laboratory that involves mixing, blending or agitating of samples, offering researchers highly reproducible and time-efficient results.
There are various types of lab shakers available, each tailored to specific applications, and many shakers come equipped with digital control panels and programmable features to improve the user’s experience.