Centrifuge Machine – Its Parts, Types, and Application

Introduction to Centrifuge Machines 

Centrifuge machines are important scientific tools that separate particles in a liquid suspension depending on density, sedimentation rate, and size. The centrifugation concept is based on the use of centrifugal force created by the fast spinning of the centrifuge rotor. This force causes particles in the sample to move in proportion to their mass, resulting in the separation of the particles into different layers. Centrifuges are widely used in a variety of scientific domains, including microbiology, where they are essential for researching microbes, cells, biological components, and proteins.


A centrifuge machine is a laboratory instrument that employs centrifugal force to accelerate particle sedimentation in a liquid sample, resulting in the separation of components of varying densities.

Types of sample Processed

Centrifuge machines are flexible microbiological equipment that can process a wide range of samples:

  • Cellular Sample: Microbial cells, such as bacteria, yeast, and mammalian cells, can be isolated from growth medium or other solutions to examine their features and behavior.
  • Viral Samples: Centrifugation is used to concentrate and purify viruses from biological materials, which aids in the study and management of viral illnesses.
  • Cellular components: Centrifugation allows for the separation of certain cellular components, such as organelles, allowing for in-depth study of their activities and interactions.
  • Extracellular Vesicles: Using centrifugation, these tiny membrane-bound vesicles generated by cells may be isolated and examined, providing insights into cell-to-cell communication and disease causes.

Principles of Centrifugation

Centrifugation is a fundamental method that uses centrifugal force principles to separate particles in a liquid solution. This section delves into the physics and uses of centrifugation in a variety of scientific fields.

putting tubes in centrifuge machine

Centrifugal Force Production

Centrifugal force is a concept taken from Newton’s equations of motion and is critical to the centrifugation process. When an item rotates around an axis, it is subjected to a force directed away from the axis. This force is created in a centrifuge machine while the rotor spins at high speeds.

Newton’s First Law and Centrifugal Force: Newton’s first law of motion asserts that unless acted upon by an external force, an object in motion will continue in motion. This external force in a rotating centrifuge is the centrifugal force, which pushes particles away from the axis of rotation.

Centrifuge Rotor and Centrifugal Force: A centrifuge’s rotor assembly holds the sample tubes and quickly rotates. The liquid inside the tubes is subjected to centrifugal force while the rotor spins. Denser particles travel away from the axis of rotation and settle to the bottom of the tube as a result of this force.

Particle Separation and Sedimentation Rate

Centrifugation speeds the sedimentation process, in which particles floating in a liquid settle due to gravity. The centrifugal force created by a centrifuge machine, on the other hand, vastly exceeds the force of gravity, resulting in substantially quicker sedimentation.

Factor affecting Sedimentation Rate: Several things impact sedimentation rate:

  1. Larger particles settle quicker than smaller particles.
  2. Particle Density: Dense particles settle faster.
  3. Medium viscosity: A lower viscosity permits particles to settle more quickly.
  4. Centrifugal Force: As rotor speed increases, so does centrifugal force.

Formation of Pellet and Supernatant: As particles settle, they gather at the bottom of the tube, creating a pellet. The supernatant is the liquid that remains above the particle. The particle density determines the makeup of the pellet and supernatant.

Centrifugation via Density Gradient

Density Gradient Centrifugation Principle: Density gradient centrifugation is a method that uses particle density variations to accomplish fine separation. A density gradient is formed within the centrifuge tube, often with the use of a gradient-forming substance such as a sucrose solution.

Density Gradient Centrifugation’s Applications: Density gradient centrifugation is used in a variety of scientific domains, including:

  • Isolation of cellular components such as organelles in biology.
  • Purification of biomolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids.
  • Separation of blood components for examination in clinical diagnostics.

Types of Density Gradient 

Continuous Gradient: A progressive variation in density over the tube’s length.

Discontinuous Gradient: Layered densities produce discrete bands where particles of varying densities collect in a discontinuous gradient.

Components of Centrifuge Machine 

Centrifuge machines are complex systems made up of numerous important components that work together to accomplish effective particle separation. This section explains each component and its function inside the centrifuge system in detail.

The Rotor Assembly

The rotor assembly is the heart of a centrifuge machine, holding the sample tubes and producing the centrifugal force required for sedimentation.

Fixed Angle Rotor

Fixed-angle rotors maintain tubes at a fixed angle relative to the axis of rotation.

Benefits include tight pellet production, decreased sample mixing, and suitability for high-speed applications.

Because of its effectiveness and little sample disruption, pelleting cells, organelles, and biomolecules is a popular application.

Swinging Buckets Rotors

Swinging-bucket rotors allow tubes to swing outward while the rotor rotates, keeping the rotor horizontal.

Benefits: Because these rotors are gentle on samples, they are perfect for gradient separations and preserving sample integrity.

Applications: Density gradient centrifugation is preferred because samples remain orientated during the run.

Vertical Rotors

Vertical rotors are used to orient tubes vertically during centrifugation.

Advantages: Reduce sample convection currents, making them suited for high-speed and high-capacity applications.

Applications: Used in ultracentrifugation for viral concentration and subcellular component separation.

Motors and Drive systems

The rotational speed necessary for centrifugation is generated by the motor and driving system. The motor generates the centrifugal force required for particle separation by rotating the rotor at high speeds.

Drive Mechanism: Motor energy is transferred to the rotor assembly through a drive shaft and belts, resulting in smooth and regulated rotation.

Variable Speed Control: This feature allows users to alter the rotating speed based on the sample type and separation technique.

User Interface and Control Panel

Users may customize and monitor centrifuge operations using the control panel and user interface.

  • Control functions: For exact customization, the control panel includes functions such as speed settings, time control, and acceleration/deceleration profiles.
  • Modern centrifuges offer user-friendly interfaces that include digital displays, touchscreens, and pre-programmed procedures.
  • Custom protocols may be programmed, saved, and recalled by users for reliable and reproducible outcomes.

Security Features

Safety elements are critical in guaranteeing human safety as well as the protection of the centrifuge and samples.

Lid Locks

Lid locks prevent the centrifuge from functioning while the lid is open, assuring human safety while in use. Modern centrifuges have interlock features that prevent the lid from opening during operation and halt the rotor before the cover is removed.

Imbalance Recognition

Importance: Imbalance can cause excessive vibration and damage to the centrifuge or samples.

Sensor Systems: Imbalance detection systems monitor mass distribution in the rotor and stop the centrifuge automatically if an imbalance is found.

Overheating Protection

Overheating Risk: Extensive operation, particularly at high speeds, might result in overheating.

Cooling Systems: Cooling systems are built inside centrifuges to disperse heat generated during operation, preventing damage to samples and the centrifuge.

Types of Centrifugation in Microbiology

Centrifugation is a flexible method used to separate and evaluate biological material in microbiology. To achieve certain separation goals, many types of centrifugation processes are used. This section delves into the numerous centrifugation processes used in microbiological research.

Centrifugation (Differential)

Differential centrifugation is a basic centrifugation technique that separates cellular components based on variations in size and density.


  • Homogenization: Initially, the material is homogenized to form a crude combination of cellular components.
  • Centrifugation stages: The mixture is centrifuged at increasingly greater speeds in a sequence of stages. The supernatant and pellet are collected separately after each step.
  • Separation: Based on their sedimentation rates, the centrifugation processes gradually separate components. In the lower levels, larger and denser components settle faster and form pellets.


Differential centrifugation is used to extract subcellular components such as nuclei, mitochondria, and ribosomes from cells.

It assists in the purification of proteins from cellular samples for biochemical examination.

Organelle Studies: Allows for the investigation of the functions and interconnections of particular organelles.

Isopycnic Centrifugation (density gradient )

Overview: Isopycnic centrifugation, also known as density gradient centrifugation, separates particles based on density by enabling them to migrate to places in a density gradient that corresponds to their densities.


Preparation of a Density Gradient: A density gradient is formed in a centrifuge tube using a gradient-forming fluid, such as a sucrose gradient.

Loading of the Sample: The sample is carefully stacked on top of the density gradient.

Centrifugation: The sample is centrifuged, which causes particles to migrate across the gradient until their density matches that of the surrounding medium.


  • Biomolecule Purification: Isopycnic centrifugation is used to separate proteins, nucleic acids, and other biomolecules from complicated mixtures.
  • It assists in the concentration and purification of viruses for research and diagnosis.
  • Separation of Particles of Similar Sizes: This method is useful for separating particles with minor density variations.

Analytical Ultracentrifugation

Overview: Analytical ultracentrifugation is a strong technique for studying macromolecule features such as molecular weight, shape, and interactions.

Procedure: The sample is placed in a dedicated ultracentrifuge cell. The material is spun at high speeds, and the sedimentation behavior is observed visually or by detecting changes in absorbance. The velocity of sedimentation or equilibrium data is utilized to identify molecular attributes such as size, shape, and molecular interactions.


  • Protein, nucleic acid, and macromolecular complexes’ molecular weights are determined using this method.
  • Protein-protein, protein-nucleic acid, and other molecular interactions are studied.
  • Biophysical Characterization: Provides information on macromolecular characteristics in their natural environment.

Choosing a Centrifuge Tube

Centrifuge tubes, which hold the materials being processed, are critical components of the centrifugation process. The proper selection of centrifuge tubes is critical to ensuring sample integrity, separation efficiency, and safety during centrifugation. This section goes into the elements that determine centrifuge tube selection.

Compatibility of Materials

Choosing the right tube material is critical for preventing sample contamination, ensuring chemical compatibility, and withstanding centrifugation pressures.

Tubes made of plastic:

  • Lightweight, break-resistant, and appropriate for lower-speed centrifugation.
  • For common purposes, choose materials such as polypropylene (PP) or polyethylene (PE).
  • Caution: Certain solvents, strong chemicals, and high-speed centrifugation may not be compatible with plastic tubes.

Tubes made of glass:

  • Advantages: Chemically inert, perfect for high-speed centrifugation and organic solvent applications.
  • Compatibility: Because of their resistance to chemical reactions, borosilicate glass tubes are commonly utilized.

Specialized tubes

  • Ultracentrifuge tubes: Made of ultraclear materials to reduce interference with ultracentrifugation’s light-based detection techniques.
  • Gradient Centrifugation Tubes: These tubes are used to generate density gradients for isopycnic centrifugation.

Tube size and Capacity

Tube Size Options:

Sample Volume: Select a tube size that allows for the volume of your sample while also allowing for effective separation.

Rotor Compatibility: Make sure the tubing size you choose matches the rotor in your centrifuge.

Tube Capacity

Maximum Capacity: To ensure adequate mixing during centrifugation, tubes should not be filled to their maximum capacity.

Balancing: Loading tubes with similar quantities helps keep the rotor balanced, minimizing vibrations and potential damage.

Gradient Density Considerations

Gradient density centrifugation is based on the formation of density gradients inside the tube. A proper gradient material selection is critical for effective separations.

Media with a Density Gradient:

Sucrose Gradients: Due to their simplicity of production and compatibility with a wide range of samples, sucrose gradients are commonly employed for biomolecule separations.

Cesium Chloride (CsCl) Gradients: Because of their high density and low viscosity, cesium chloride (CsCl) gradients are used for nucleic acid separation.

VI. Loading and Preparation of Samples

Sample preparation and loading are key phases in centrifugation that have a direct impact on separation quality and reliability. Properly prepared samples offer consistent and accurate results. This section looks into the fundamentals of sample preparation and centrifugation loading.

Centrifugation Procedures

Centrifugation techniques entail identifying the optimal centrifuge speed, duration, and management of the resultant pellet and supernatant fractions. These techniques are critical for obtaining successful sample separation and accurate sample analysis. This section discusses the fundamentals of centrifugation procedures.

  1. Put on the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  2. Prepare and label samples accurately.
  3. Select an appropriate rotor and fix it in place.
  4. Turn on the main power switch on the centrifuge.
  5. Navigate to the control panel or the user interface.
  6. Set the RPM and RCF based on the requirements of your experiment.
  7. Set the time limit for the centrifugation run.
  8. Set the temperature for a chilled centrifuge if appropriate.
  9. Load samples into centrifuge tubes, making sure they are evenly distributed.
  10. For high-speed runs, seal tubes if necessary.
  11. Securely close the centrifuge cover.
  12. Using the “Start” button, begin the centrifugation run.
  13. monitor the operation for any strange noises or vibrations.
  14. Wait for the centrifuge to come to a stop at the conclusion of the timer.
  15. After the centrifuge has totally stopped, remove the cover.
  16. Remove the tubes from the rotor with care.
  17. Using the main switch, turn off the centrifuge.
  18. Use a light disinfectant to clean the outside of the centrifuge.
  19. Remove the rotor and store it carefully if required.

RPM and RCF Estimation

RPM (revolutions per minute) and RCF (relative centrifugal force) are important quantities that define the gravitational force exerted during centrifugation.

Calculating RPM:

The rotating speed of the centrifuge rotor, measured in revolutions per minute, is referred to as RPM.

The RPM is determined depending on the capabilities of the centrifuge and the desired sedimentation rate.

Calculating the RCF:

The force imparted to the particles during centrifugation is known as RCF, sometimes known as g-force.

RCF is computed as RCF = 1.118 x 10-5 x r x (RPM)2 (where r is the distance in centimeters from the center of rotation to the sample).

RPM and RCF Influencing Factors:

  • Denser particles necessitate a larger RCF for successful sedimentation.
  • Larger sample quantities may necessitate longer centrifugation or a higher RCF.
  • Sample Sensitivity: To avoid harm, delicate samples may require a lower RCF.

Considerations for Safety:

  • To avoid contact with potentially dangerous samples, wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Avoid the creation of aerosols during pellet resuspension, especially when working with pathogens.
  • Keeping Records: For future reference and repeatability, keep full records of centrifugation settings, durations, and handling protocols.

Centrifuge Maintenance and Care

Proper centrifuge maintenance and care are critical to ensuring its lifetime, correct performance, and user safety. Regular maintenance reduces problems and extends the life of the instrument.

Cleaning Procedures on a Regular Basis

  • Outside Cleaning: Wipe off the outside surfaces with a moderate disinfectant to prevent dirt, dust, and pollutants from accumulating.
  • Rotor Cleaning: To minimize sample residue accumulation and contamination, clean the rotor on a regular basis with non-abrasive products.
  • Chamber cleaning: Clean the centrifuge chamber to eliminate any spills or debris that might compromise the balance or performance.

Inspection and balancing of rotors

Rotor Inspection: Inspect rotors on a regular basis for signs of wear, corrosion, or damage that might impair performance. Replace broken rotors as soon as possible.

Rotor Balancing: Ensure that rotors are correctly balanced before each usage by uniformly dispersing tubes throughout the rotor. Vibration and damage can be caused by unbalanced rotors.

Lubrication and motor Maintenance

Lubrication: To decrease friction and wear, certain centrifuges require periodic lubrication of moving components. For correct lubrication intervals and lubricants, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Motor Maintenance: Examine the motor and drive system for symptoms of wear, appropriate alignment, and unusual noise or warmth. If required, lubricate according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Troubleshooting Typical Problems

Excessive Noise During Operation

Causes: Abnormal sounds might be caused by loose components, misalignment, or mechanical problems.

Solution: Immediately stop the centrifuge, check the inside, and tighten any loose components. If the problem persists, please contact technical support.

Resolution of Vibration and Imbalance

Causes: Vibrations and unbalance might occur as a result of uneven loads, broken rotors, or malfunctioning components.

Solution: Ensure uniform sample distribution, rotor integrity, and appropriate installation. If the problem persists, contact the manufacturer’s customer service.

Lid Interlock Issues

Cause: Misalignment, sensor problems, or faulty interlock mechanisms can all cause lid interlock issues.

Solution: Check for appropriate lid closure, clean sensors, and make sure the lid interlock mechanisms are working properly.

Advances in Centrifuge Technology 

Over the years, the area of centrifuge technology has expanded dramatically, resulting in the creation of improved features and capabilities that improve separation efficiency, user convenience, and experimental outcomes. This section looks at several significant breakthroughs in centrifuge technology.

Refrigerated Centrifuges

  • Overview: Refrigerated centrifuges have cooling systems that keep samples at specified temperatures during centrifugation.
  • Benefits: Refrigerated centrifuges are useful for samples that require low temperatures to retain their integrity, such as proteins, enzymes, and nucleic acids.
  • Cooling avoids the destruction of heat-sensitive molecules during separation, assuring accurate findings.
  • Longer cycles: Refrigeration allows for longer centrifugation cycles without sacrificing sample quality.

High-Speed Ultracentrifuges

High-speed ultracentrifuges are designed to attain extremely fast rotating speeds, allowing for the effective separation of progressively smaller particles.


  • High speeds allow for greater separation of particles with small density changes, resulting in more accurate analysis.
  • Ultracentrifugation is critical for isolating and characterizing nanoparticles and subcellular organelles.
  • Viral research relies heavily on ultracentrifugation for viral concentration, purification, and structural investigations.

Automation and Remote Control

Overview: Automation and remote control capabilities simplify centrifuge operations, increase user convenience, and allow for unattended runs.


  • Automation ensures that centrifugation techniques are followed consistently, decreasing variability between studies.
  • Time-Saving: Remote control allows users to start, monitor, and stop runs from a distance, increasing laboratory efficiency.
  • Data logging: Automation collects data for each run, allowing for in-depth analysis and troubleshooting.

Applications in microbiology

Centrifugation is essential in microbiology because it allows researchers to separate and examine distinct components of bacteria. The method has several uses, ranging from examining biological components to identifying disorders. This section delves into the many applications of centrifugation in microbiology.

Cell Fractionation

Cell fractionation is the process of separating cellular components depending on their size, density, and solubility. It enables researchers to investigate organelles and cellular structures in isolation.


  1. Organelle study: Centrifugation separates nuclei, mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, and other organelles enabling detailed examination of their activities and interconnections.
  2. Protein localization: Protein localization inside particular cellular compartments is aided by fractionation.
  3. Cell Signaling: Researching fractions aids in the understanding of cellular signaling networks and molecular processes.

Virus Purification

Virus purification is the process of concentrating and extracting viruses from complicated mixtures for subsequent analysis, study, or vaccine manufacture.


  1. Vaccine Development: Centrifugation is essential for purifying viruses in order to develop vaccines and research their characteristics.
  2. Viral structure studies: Isolated viruses can be utilized for electron microscopy, X-ray crystallography, and other structural studies.
  3. Antiviral drug testing: Purified viruses are necessary for evaluating antiviral drugs and understanding viral reproduction.

Nucleic Acid Extraction

The extraction of DNA or RNA from complicated biological materials for genetic analysis and molecular diagnostics is known as nucleic acid extraction.


  1. Centrifugation is used in genetic research to separate nucleic acids from proteins and other biological components.
  2. PCR and Sequencing: Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and DNA sequencing require isolated DNA/RNA.
  3. DNA purification: Purified DNA is utilized in genetic engineering as well as gene expression investigations.

Protein Purification

Protein isolation is the process of isolating proteins from cellular samples for subsequent study and characterization.


  1. Centrifugation allows for the separation of particular enzymes for biochemical investigations.
  2. Proteomics Research: Proteomics research uses isolated proteins to explore protein function and relationships.
  3. Protein Isolation for Drug Development: Proteins extracted by centrifugation are essential for drug research and development.


In conclusion, understanding the benefits of a centrifuge machine is essential in various industries and scientific disciplines. By harnessing the principles of centrifugal force and density gradient separation, centrifuge machines provide efficient separation processes, versatility in laboratory settings, and precise results. Their applications span across medical and clinical laboratories, industrial processes, and research and development, contributing to advancements in science and technology. Choosing the right centrifuge machine involves considering factors such as capacity, speed range, and specific requirements. With the right machine, you can optimize your processes, enhance productivity, and achieve reliable results.


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  2. https://www.mls.be/en/p/lab-apparatus/centrifuges/centrifuges-hettich/hematocrit-centrifuges/
  3. https://microbiologynote.com/ultracentrifuge-definition-principle-types-uses/
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  5. https://www.medicalexpo.com/prod/andreas-hettich-gmbh-cokg/product-67600-888341.html
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  7. https://www.medicalexpo.com/prod/eppendorf-se/product-68382-849100.html
  8. https://www.medicalexpo.com/prod/cryste/product-105953-1030380.html
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Mubashir Iqbal
Mubashir Iqbal

Mubashir Iqbal is a highly dedicated and motivated Microbiologist with an MPhil in Microbiology from the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences. Currently, he is researching the efficacy of commercially available SARS Cov-2 vaccines to neutralize the omicron variant in Pakistan. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Microbiology and has experience in chemical and microbiological analysis of water samples, managing SOPs and documents according to standard ISO 17025. Additionally, he has worked as an internee in BSL 3, Institute of Microbiology, UVAS, where he gained experience in RNA extraction, sample processing, and microscopy.

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