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What Is a Multichannel Pipette?

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  • Written By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2016
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A multichannel pipette is an electronic device used in science labs to accurately measure and fill numerous vials of liquid at once. There are many different sizes and styles of multichannel pipettes, but they all serve a similar purpose: namely, to make pipetting easier, more efficient, and more accurate. Using this kind of scientific equipment allows researchers and lab workers to guarantee identical liquid draws with the simple push of a button. This not only saves time and stress, but also promotes more accurate results and outcomes.

Pipettes are common tools in places like chemistry labs, pharmaceutical research facilities, and medical testing centers where liquid needs to be precisely measured. Most pipettes dispense measured liquid into glass vials, usually drawing the liquid up with suction force to keeps the contents level and stable. Some of the most primitive pipettes require manual suction. More modern versions employ basic electronics to control pull pressure and volume. In a multi-channel pipette, multiple vials are filled simultaneously.

There are plenty of reasons why scientists may want multiple samples of a certain liquid. Most science experiments involve various tests on the same compound in order to understand reactions or identify particulates. In order to guarantee consistent and useable results, it is important that scientists have the exact same amount of liquid in each vial before beginning an experiment. Inaccurate measurements can skew the results.

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A multichannel pipette saves a lab technician the burden of having to painstakingly fill and examine multiple vials. Most multichannel pipette models can simultaneously fill anywhere from 6 to 16 samples. Scientists are able to control the precise amount to be drawn, the pressure of the suction, and the number of samples, among other things. A multichannel pipette is usually an expensive piece of lab equipment, but often pays for itself in efficiency.

There is not usually much functional difference between a multichannel pipette and a regular electronic pipette aside from the number of vials attached. A multichannel pipette is often a bigger piece of laboratory equipment, but usually works in exactly the same way. First, the scientist must program the device by telling it how much to draw. This number is usually a precise volume, often measured out to several decimal places.

Next, the scientist must attach liquid chambers to the base of the pipette. Most of the time, these chambers are in the form of sealable glass vials, though plastic is sometimes used for very temporary experiments. In a multichannel model, the vials are snapped into designated wells on the device, usually lined up in rows.

When the pipette is ready, the scientist lowers the tip of the vials into the sample liquid. With the push of a button, the pipette begins drawing up the liquid, stopping when it reaches the programmed volume. The finished vials can then be ejected into a storage tray, and the pipette reloaded. Most multichannel pipettes are capable of storing commands and past programs in order to quickly recreate results.

The vast majority of multichannel pipette models work with the use of vacuum suction. This is essentially an air-displacement method of volume control. A piston or plunger located within the pipette moves up and down, creating a seal that sucks liquid up into the vial, then seals it there. This ensures uniform volume by eliminating air bubbles.

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