Centrifuge Maintenance and Care

The centrifugal field which accelerates the separation process also exerts large forces on the rotor material. If a rotor fails, a tube breaks, or any other incident occurs, the centrifuge can be severely damaged, as well as possibly endanger those working in the lab. For this reason, some simple precautions should be observed to improve safety during centrifugation.

Sample Retrieval, Cleaning, and Maintenance

Precautions During Centrifugation

Avoiding Rotor Failures

The centrifugal field which accelerates the separation process also exerts large forces on the rotor material. If a rotor fails, the centrifuge is severely damaged as well. For this reason, some simple precautions should be observed

Rotors are designed to be run up to their maximum speed with a load of a specific weight. One should never attempt to run a rotor at a speed higher than the one designated by its manufacturer. Also, if high density solutions (greater than 1.2 g/mL, for instance) are used, the run speed must be reduced to prevent undue stress on the rotor. Consult your instruction manual for exact directions.

Tube Breakage 

Glass tubes can break during centrifugation, due either to improper loading or inherent defects. Any glass fragments must be removed from the buckets, adapters, rubber liners, and rotor chamber before the next run is made. If you find gray dust, which results from sandblasting of the rotor chamber by glass particles, it must be cleaned up too. You should make several dry runs without samples, and clean the chamber between each run to be sure this dust is eliminated from the centrifuge.

Chemical Resistance

If you plan to centrifuge any uncommon solvents or solutions, consult your manual to be sure they are compatible with the various plastics and metals comprising the centrifuge, the rotor, the tubes, and other accessories. These same precautions must be observed with any solvents used for sterilization purposes. A table of 19 chemical resistances for common centrifuge materials is available from Beckman Coulter.

Aerosol Generation

If any liquid is spilled on a rotor, it will be dispersed as a particulate mist when the centrifuge is run. Part of this mist will be fine enough to form a relatively stable aerosol which will tend to be dispersed throughout the laboratory. Such spills should be thoroughly cleaned up before running the centrifuge.

Handling Human Samples

Human blood or blood components can transmit an infectious disease or virus if the patient or donor carries these. Blood should be handled with respect for this possibility during all laboratory manipulations, including centrifugation.

When in doubt, refer to your instruction manual

From time to time, you’ll have questions about the actual operation and maintenance of your centrifuge. The instruction manual provided with each instrument is designed to answer these questions. It should be read before making your first run, and kept handy for future reference.