Window Shopping for e-pipettes

One of the most important parts of any good experiment is to have high quality equipment, stands to reason. It’s important to have the best quality equipment you can get (afford).  The big instruments that do the heavy duty analysis go out to tender and have maintenance contracts on them, so you can generally rest easy that they’ll be doing the right thing.  The smaller bits and pieces can have a bigger impact on results than you might expect.

One of the key pieces of preparatory equipment in the biology laboratory is the micro-pipette.  It’s a straightforward enough concept, you jam a disposable tip onto one end and the pipette can suck some of the volume out of the tip and thus suck up liquid.  The pipettes are callibrated so you can suck up and dispense very specific and tiny amounts of liquid.

Manual pipettes such as this on the right:

gilson pipette

A gilson manual pipette. Great pipette but terrible on arthritic thumbs.

rely on a spring to move the piston in the pipette to a “sucked up” position. So to empty the tip of air or liquid, you have to press against this spring. Then to suck up the air, you slowly release the pressure to prevent liquid getting sucked up too fast (this is a particular problem with viscous fluids like glycerol).

Working against this spring can be hell on your hands if you have arthritis (or RSI for that matter, which you’ll get from doing too much pipetting).  Electronic pipettes remove this spring problem and use something like a stepper motor instead to move the piston.

 

I’m currently on the hunt for a set of Good electronic pipettes, that cover the same range of volume dispensing as the manual ones but with a similar or better accuracy/precision.  Despite there being no electronic single channel (multichannel can take many tips and are dead handy) in any of the nearby laboratories, there are a plethora available online, so now the fun part is deciding which ones balance accuracy and precision with cost and ease of use.

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