There are various types of centrifuges – small bench-top, large capacity refrigerated, high-speed refrigerated, and more. While simple benchtop models have low revolutions per minute (rpm) of 500, there are expensive models with rpm values of up to 30,000.
Medical centrifuges operate at an average speed of 3000 rpm and are used to separate serum or plasma from whole blood samples or for sediment concentration from urine samples. The device can cause injury if not properly used. Some of the potential hazards are:
- The risk associated rotor failure caused by the high kinetic energy of a bowl or chamber spinning at very high speed
- Danger of lab personnel coming into contact with moving parts or hot surfaces
- Mechanical failure of a part can cause discharge of pieces of metal or production of sparks
- Centrifuges get easily contaminated by spills and aerosols produced during centrifugation. Aerosols from broken tubes containing infectious material can spread illness
Exercising caution when buying a laboratory centrifuge and proper use can ensure user safety and prevent damage to the device:
- Always go for an advanced model from leading manufacturers. LW Scientific, the Drucker Company, Unico manufacture top-class centrifuges. The MyFuge centrifuge is an efficient palm-size model.
- Some important safety features to look for:
- Lid safety switch that prevents the device from operating unless the lid is locked
- Lid lock that allows the device to be opened only after the rotor has stopped operating
- Cool-Flow air flow design to prevent sample overheating
- Clear lid for safe observation of samples
- Automatic rotor imbalance detection feature which stops the run immediately when an imbalance is detected
- Rotor lid with special aerosol-tight gaskets to prevent lab contamination.
- Sturdy construction for safety and durability
To reduce the risk of rotor failures and ensure user safety, instruction manuals have to be carefully studied before operation. Rotors should be inspected regularly and retired when their lifetime has expired. The ideal option would be to purchase centrifuges from authorized dealers of laboratory equipment. Besides training on proper use, this would ensure timely maintenance support to keep medical centrifuges in excellent working condition.