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How to Build a Plate Centrifuge for $25

by on 12th of March, 2010 in Equipment Mastery & Hacks

I recently visited a lab that had a salad spinner on their lab bench and at first I wondered if they were putting together a salad lunch there but when I took a peek I got a nice surprise. It turns out that the salad spinner was actually a bench top, "minifuge" version of a plate centrifuge.

What a great idea I thought. A cheap, quick-to-build plate centrifuge that also worked pretty well for a quick spin just before PCR. So, we tried to built one in my lab and we loved it so much that we now have one sitting near almost EVERY PCR plate instrument, and have even gifted a couple to others!

Building one for your lab is simple, here is how…

You will need

1. A salad spinner – We use the Zyliss brand pull-cord salad spinner.
2. Multi-purpose cable ties found at any hardware store.
3. 96-well plate inserts – We use the ones from ABI


Gathering the components is as complicated as it gets! All you need to do now is use those cable ties to secure the 96-well plate inserts to the inner bowl of the spinner as shown above. Then start using the new mini-plate-fuge!

About the author: Shoba
Shoba works at a biotech company in Wisconsin. She has MS from the University of North Carolina.

See more from Shoba

16 thoughts on “How to Build a Plate Centrifuge for $25”

  1. John says:

    We don't even have the inserts Shoba . . we just gently prop the plate against the side and just use gradual braking to stop it (otherwise it topples over). Saves thousands on a MTP centrifuge!

    1. Avatar of Shoba Shoba says:

      Hi John, it is always so good to hear from you. Your comment makes it seem much easier than what it already is. Thanks for the comment !

  2. Carlton says:

    Ha! That's awesome. How many rcf can you get out of that? 100, tops?

    1. Avatar of Shoba Shoba says:

      Hi Carlton, I have never really thought about speed, so I don't know. It is good enough to spin down 25 – 50uL reactions.

  3. Bonnie says:

    Whoa, that is exactly what I need. I've been walking to another lab to use a half-broken centrifuge to spin down my PCR plates before running the reactions, but this would make my life much easier.

    1. Avatar of Shoba Shoba says:

      Hi Bonnie, I used to do the same as well. Walk up to another lab with my PCR plate in a cold block, covered in foil! What a waste of time! Not anymore :)

  4. JTA says:

    The OXO spinner doesn't even need cable ties. Convenient push-button spinning (albeit pushing repeatedly), and has a brake. Just put the plate in, make sure the corners engage the ridges, and voila.

  5. Ian Dunham says:

    Hi there,
    A brief note on the history of this design (at least that I know about). I first came across the salad spinner for plate centrifugation when I moved to the Paediatric Research Unit at Guys Hospital in London in 1990. At that time a postdoc in that lab, Peter Green, was credited with the design used there, although I do not know whether he had seen it elsewhere first. Since then we used various iterations at the Sanger Centre throughout the mapping stages of the Human Genome Project from 1993 onwards, and for any other application using plate PCR. A key design point is to source the cheapest possible version of the salad spinner, as designs with complex brakes or too high spin speeds just reduce the ease of use.


  6. I remember seeing this described back in the late 80s when I was an undergraduate. Could have been BioTechniques.

    Here is a citation from 1992 which mentions the technique; a Google search suggests there are multiple patents and probably earlier examples citing repurposed salad spinners

    Perhaps a comprehensive survey of kitchen implements should be made to determine which others are useful for molecular biology!

    (The Waring Blendor, of course, already occupies a hallowed place in the Molecular Biology hall-of-fame: Hershey-Chase)

  7. Brian says:

    I wonder if this is a case of convergent evolution or of a slow trickling out of ideas. I invented a salad spinner idea like this about 12 years ago. We were working with radioactive isotopes in PCR and needed a way to prevent a spattering of radioactivity when opening tubes. We had access to a shared centrifuge for spinning plates, but no one wanted to deal with radioactivity in it. I came up with this idea of a salad spinner because it was fast enough to spin down 96 well tubes while still being very contained and easy to clean. The salad spinner in question was red with a white basket and had a hand crank, and the plate holders were tied down with small guage wire instead of zip ties. Otherwise the designs were identical.

  8. venu says:

    explain me to this dumb,
    BTW, how to make this spin..
    jut turn with hand…

    1. Avatar of Shoba Shoba says:

      Venu, this is a spin-cord spinner. You have to pull on the cord to make it spin. There are also other models of salad spinners – some of them have a push-button that you press on. Hope this helps.

  9. Marilyn says:

    These have been used since at least the early 90's for spinning DNA sequencing reactions down to start the reaction (old gel electrophoresis days)!

  10. Avatar of Roberto Rosati says:

    I was surfing the web for old pBR322 sequencig primers, and look what I found! A 1988 article on Focus describing the salad centrifuge!
    Here it is (on page 15):

  11. Avatar of Bioman40 Bioman40 says:

    Apparently, this idea has been around for some time, as commented by Roberto, Keith and Brian. I've seen this in a few labs. For some innovation to this idea you may want to check out, they've created a custom design.

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