Microplate Readers, Leading Technology in Scientific-Level Research

A plate reader is also known as a microplate reader or microplate photometer. It is an experimental device that allows the detection of biological, chemical or physical events through a sample that is placed in a microtiter plate.

Undoubtedly, there are several options at the manufacturing level that help science to solve new research challenges. Every day, we must face the study of physical, chemical and biological processes in order to know their origin and what can be done in relation to the results. At the forefront of this type of instrument that improves the life and development of millions of scientists, are the microplate readers.

This instrument is widely used in the research of pharmaceutical, biotechnology and academic organizations, for drug discovery, biotest verification, quality control and manufacturing processes.

The most commonly used microplate format in academic laboratories or clinical diagnostic laboratories is 96 wells (8 x 12 arrays) with a typical reaction volume of 100-200 μL per well. The most common detection methods for microplate tests are absorbance, fluorescence intensity, luminescence, time-resolved fluorescence, and fluorescence polarization.

Measurement of absorption in microplates

It has been available to readers of this style for more than 30 years and is used in assays such as ELISA from BMG labtech, protein and nucleic acid quantification, or enzyme activity assays, and such as MTT to study cell viability, for example.

The process is simple, a light source illuminates the sample at a specific wavelength and a photodetector on the other side of the well measures what percentage of the initial light is transmitted by the sample. The amount of light that passes is related to the concentration of the molecule of interest.

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Detection of fluorescence intensity in the microplate format has been extensively developed over the past two decades. The range of applications is much broader than when using absorption detection, but the required plate readers are generally expensive.

Microplate readers capable of reading multiple detection modes i.e. multimode have been around for about 2 decades and are a very common sight in research labs.

Microplate Readers Application

In this type of reader, the first optical system illuminates the sample at a specific wavelength (selected by an optical filter or monochromator). When illuminated, the sample emits fluorescence, a second optical system is who collects the emitted light, separates it from the generated light (by means of a monochromator filter) and finally detects the light.

For example, a technique known as calcium imaging measures the intensity of fluorescence. It is recognized that the use of east sensitive inks are ideal for determining intracellular calcium levels.

In general, microplate readers are used for all of the following applications:

  • Life sciences
  • Drug discovery and test development

Types of reactions detected by a microplate reader

Making a brief summary, we can say that a microplate reader is a device that is used to detect chemical, biological or physical reactions by measuring the emitted light. In our time, scientists in the pharmaceutical and life science industries strive to improve efficiency and routine experimental processes with products or tools that can process samples in minutes or seconds.

Microplate readers help reduce operational time and costs, allowing researchers to spend more time analyzing data and generating valuable practical insights.

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Microplate readers from leading laboratories have a variety of detection modes to support different types of applications. By focusing much more on the needs of the scientific community, they are gaining broad ground in this field. So, let’s take a look at some of the industry’s leading microplate reader propositions available.

Single-mode microplate reader

This is one of the microplate readers ranging from single detection mode plate readers – fluorometers and luminometers, to multimode readers with up to eight detection modes.

Common detection modes for microplate readers are absorption, fluorescence intensity, emission, time-resolved fluorescence, TR-FRET, fluorescence polarization, and nephelometry.

The multimode microplate reader

This equipment can be equipped with up to eight detection modes. The modular configuration of the multimode microplate reader allows the user to select only the detection modes that meet their current needs and to add other modes in the future as needed.

Fluorescent plate reader

These microplate fluorometers work to detect any fluorescence intensity test with high sensitivity and precision. It is a filter-based instrument and is an ideal multimode tool for life science applications.

Horizontal microplate reader

Microplate luminometer dedicated to “flash” and “glow” luminescence measurements. The highest technology is DL Ready certified and can be upgraded to a multimode microplate reader if needs change.

Microplate reader for nephelometer

A microplate nephelometer is best if laser-based, ideal for fast connectivity solubility testing in HTS and for a wide range of turbidity measurements, from microbial growth to petroleum process control.

Microplate Reader Accessories

Various microplate reader accessories help improve the performance of microplate readers, from enhanced throughput feeders to atmospheric control units for live cell-based testing.

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All companies at a scientific level are relying more and more on these research instruments to carry out great advances in relation to the development of products and drugs, as well as any other biotechnological discovery.

There is a wide range of accessories for microplate readers, from stackers to increase performance to atmospheric control units. Let’s see then the main accessories used in microplate readers:

  • Atmospheric Control Unit (ACU) for enhanced cell-based assays
  • Evaluation boards in case of functional validation
  • Filters (for a wide range of applications)
  • LVis plate
  • Low volume measurements
  • Microplate feeder
  • Microplate handling system
  • Smart microplate incubation

In conclusion

Multimode plate readers have become very popular. Market demand has led instrument manufacturers to move from producing single-mode plate readers to those with multiple detection modes. They offer flexibility and cost savings and precious lab space, along with the convenience of using just one instrument rather than having to purchase multiple dedicated instruments.

Today, up to 13 different reading modes can be specified in the latest generation of MM plate readers. The evolution of MM plate readers has been one of those that have added new modes along with the improvement of hardware specifications such as sensitivity, read time, microplate density and increased software flexibility.

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