How Centrifugation Works & How We Save You Time & Money

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Test tubes with samples inside that have undergone centrifugation

Centrifugation is used in various research and clinical laboratories for many different types of separation based on density.

General lab equipment

Pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, and biotechnology companies, as well as hospitals, blood banks, diagnostics labs, and even food & beverage companies, have significant use for centrifugation of samples performed using a centrifuge. Simply put, a centrifuge is a machine with a rapidly rotating container that applies centrifugal force to its contents.

It is an indispensable piece of equipment because it can separate mixtures with relative densities, insoluble particles, immiscible liquids, sediment suspended solids, and blood. It can even simulate different types of gravity for astronaut training.

Centrifuges operate by placing an object in rotation around a fixed axis and applying an accelerative force perpendicular to the spin axis. The amount of accelerative force applied to a sample in a centrifuge is defined as the relative centrifugal force (RCF), or g-force. RCF is measured as multiple’s of Earth’s gravitational field (g).

There are three main types of centrifuges designed for various applications:

  • Industrial-scale centrifuges: Commonly used in manufacturing and waste processing to sediment suspended solids or separate immiscible liquids.
  • High-speed centrifuges and ultracentrifuges: Capable of providing very high accelerations can separate fine particles down to the nano-scale, as well as molecules of different masses.
  • Gas centrifuges: Specifically used for isotope separation.

While centrifuges are considered a ubiquitous piece of laboratory equipment, you may still have questions about which model will fit your needs best. There are important considerations to make, and they mostly involve centrifugation speed, configuration flexibility, available lab space, and ease of use.

Read on to learn more about these considerations and the types of centrifugation and centrifuges most commonly used in clinical and research laboratories.

Centrifugation Methods, Centrifuge Types, & Their Uses

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There are multiple types of centrifuges and centrifugation. While centrifugation is classified by application fit, centrifuges can also be classified by the intended use or rotor design.


What is centrifugation? In short, it’s the act of separating particles from a solution according to their size, shape, density, and medium viscosity using centrifugal force at various speeds and applying that force at different angles.

There are different types of centrifugation, with the two main types being differential centrifugation and density gradient centrifugation. Furthermore, density gradient centrifugation can be divided further: isopycnic and rate-zonal centrifugation.

Differential centrifugation:

This type is considered the simplest form of separation by centrifugation. It’s used to separate certain organelles from whole cells to further analyze specific parts of cells by applying different centrifugation cycles. These cycles facilitate faster sedimentation rates that naturally occur to particles of different densities or sizes in a suspension. In other words, by subjecting the suspension to increasing levels of force, particles of specific sizes will sediment at different rates more quickly.

Density gradient centrifugation:

On the other hand, this type is used to separate particles based on density as they pass through a density gradient while being subjected to centrifugal force. It is based on the principle that molecules settle once they reach a medium with the same density as their own. Using a medium with a density gradient that either decreases or increases, particles will separate at different layers as centrifugal force is applied.

The two types of density gradient centrifugation, isopycnic and rate-zonal, differ in that the rate-zonal method is used to separate particles that vary in size but not in density. In contrast, the isopycnic method separates particles that differ in density but not size.

Rotor Design

There are at least three types of centrifuge rotors. These include fixed-angle rotors, swinging head (or swinging bucket) rotors, and vertical rotors. Centrifuge models can be classified based on the rotor design.

Fixed-angle rotor centrifuges are designed to hold the sample containers at a constant angle relative to the central axis. The angle the rotor holds the containers is typically 45°, which causes sedimentation to form on the side of the tubes. It can potentially be problematic if the solids get caught at the angle of the tube.

Swinging head (or swinging bucket) centrifuges, in contrast to fixed-angle centrifuges, have a hinge where the sample containers are attached to the central rotor. This allows all of the samples to swing outwards as the centrifuge spins.

Lastly, vertical rotor centrifuges differ from fixed-angle or swinging bucket rotors in that these types hold the sample containers in an upright position. Because the particles in suspension only have a short distance to separate, the run time is reduced, and the resolution is increased. A vertical rotor is commonly used for isopycnic and other density gradient separations.

Intended Uses by Type

A centrifuge’s intended use varies on its usability and purpose:

  • Laboratory centrifuges are general-purpose instruments of several types with distinct but overlapping capabilities. These include clinical centrifuges, superspeed centrifuges, and preparative ultracentrifuges.
  • Analytical ultracentrifuges are designed to perform sedimentation analysis of macromolecules using the principles devised by Theodor Svedberg.
  • Haematocrit centrifuges are used to measure the volume percentage of red blood cells in whole blood.
  • Gas centrifuges, including Zippe-type centrifuges, are used for isotopic separations in the gas phase.

Many laboratory-scale centrifuges are used in chemistry, biology, biochemistry, and clinical medicine to isolate and separate suspensions and immiscible liquids. They vary widely in speed, capacity, temperature control, and other characteristics.

Specifically, laboratory centrifuges employ different fixed-angle and swinging bucket rotors, each of which can carry various amounts of centrifuge tubes while being rated for specific maximum speeds. Controls vary from simple electrical timers to programmable models that control acceleration and deceleration rates, running speeds, and temperature regimes.

Ultracentrifuges spin the rotors under vacuum, eliminating air resistance and enabling precise temperature control. Zonal rotors and continuous flow systems are capable of handling bulk and larger sample volumes, respectively, in a laboratory-scale instrument.

Laboratory Centrifuge Types

Here are a variety of lab-grade centrifuges available, many of which have specific benefits the end-user can take advantage of.

For example, microcentrifuges, devices for small tubes from 0.2 ml to 2.0 ml (microtubes), come equipped with 96 well-plates and offer a compact design with a small footprint. Clinical centrifuges are moderate-speed devices used for clinical applications like blood collection tubes.

Multipurpose high-speed centrifuges are devices used for a broad range of tube sizes and provide high variability; however, they typically have a large footprint.

Ultracentrifuges, which are analytical and preparative models, are used in cell and molecular biology and biochemistry to separate tiny particles in solution. This includes viruses, viral particles, plasmid DNA, RNA, proteins, and lipoproteins.

Because of the heat generated by air friction (even in ultracentrifuges, where the rotor operates in a good vacuum), and the frequent necessity of maintaining samples at a given temperature, many types of laboratory centrifuges are refrigerated and temperature controlled.

We Offer Flexible Laboratory Centrifuge Leases to Fit Every Need

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Founder-Friendly Leases

Our lease agreements are founder-friendly and flexible, helping you preserve working capital, strengthen the cash flow of your business, and keep business credit lines open for expansions, staffing, and other crucial operational expenses and business development opportunities.

2-5 Year Lease Lengths

Leases range from 2 to 5 years. Length will depend on several factors, including how long you want to use the equipment, equipment type, and your company’s financial position. These are standard factors leasing companies consider and help us tailor a lease agreement to fit your needs.

Your Choice of Manufacturer

We don’t carry an inventory. This means you’re not limited to a specific set of manufacturers. Instead, you can pick the equipment that aligns with your business goals and preferences. We’ll work with the manufacturer of your choice to get the equipment in your facility as quickly as possible.

Maintenance & Repair Coverage

Bundle preventive maintenance and repair coverage with your lease agreement. You can spread those payments over time. Easily maintain your equipment, minimize the chances something will break down, repair instrumentation quickly, and simplify your payment processes.

End-of-Lease Options

At the end of your lease, you have multiple options. You can either renew the lease at a significantly lower price, purchase the machine outright based on the fair market value of the original pricing, or call it a day and we’ll come the pick up the equipment for you free of charge.

No Loan-Like Terms

Our leases do not include loan-like terms, which can be restrictive or harmful in certain situations. We do not require debt covenants, IP pledges, collateral,  or equity participation. Our goal is to maximize your flexibility. When you lease with us, you’re collaborating with a true business partner.

In-House Underwriting Process

Our underwriting is done in-house. You can expect quicker turnaround, allowing you respond to your equipment needs as they arise. We require less documentation than traditional lenders and financiers and can get the equipment you need in operation more quickly.

Popular Centrifuge Manufacturers

Beckman Coulter
Drucker Diagnostics
Cole Parmer
LK Industries
Nickel Electro
Thermo Fisher Scientific