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What Is a Micromanipulator?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 July 2014
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A micromanipulator is a device which is used to handle microtools. Micromanipulators are useful for handling tools which are so small that they cannot be manipulated with a human hand, and for dealing with such tools in environments where a human hand might be too shaky or unstable. There are a number of settings in which micromanipulators are used worldwide. These specialized scientific tools can be quite expensive, depending on which of a range of options they offer.

A typical setting in which such devices are used is a laboratory in which people are working with specimens on the cellular level. Micromanipulators can be used to do things like precisely and gently inserting a single sperm into an egg, or in microscopic dissection. A micromanipulator may also be used when working with very small electronics.

These devices are controlled by a joystick which can usually control movement in three dimensional space, allowing people to change position as smoothly as possible. The micromanipulator comes with various attaching heads which can be used to hold microtools, and may be mounted to a lab bench or a microscope stage, depending on the needs of the user and the design of the device.

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While the human hand can be very deft and may be capable of surprisingly well controlled movements, when it comes to handling microtools, a micromanipulator is usually a better choice than a hand. These small tools work in such limited environments that a minor tremor or muscle contraction could be devastating, and when a micromanipulator is in good working order, it will perform controlled movements much more smoothly than a human hand.

It can take some practice to learn to use the device properly. Micromanipulator training tools can include sample specimens which people can manipulate with the device to get a feel for how it handles and to learn about the limitations and capacity of the device in a low pressure environment. Training can also include instruction in selecting the appropriate attachments for the device, and instruction in breaking down and cleaning the device.

If one has an opportunity to work with a micromanipulator, it is advisable to ask for advice and instruction before starting. These expensive tools can be very delicate, and a small mistake can turn out to be a costly one. A lab technician who is experienced at operating the device can provide specific information about how to use it, along with tips during use which will help people use the device more effectively.

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