Biotechnology is a broad field of study with numerous clinical, experimental, and industrial applications. Biotechnology has many different uses and is a major part of several industries.
However, the basis of biotechnology is the lab, where these technologies are created and developed.
Biotechnology labs are constructed in all kinds of settings, but there are a few pieces of lab equipment used in biotechnology labs, no matter what type of research is being done.
Here, we will give a brief introduction to some of the most important techniques performed in a biotechnology lab and go over some of the different types of biotechnology lab equipment and their uses
What Is Biotechnology?
Biotechnology refers to both an industry and a technology sector used by numerous industries. Generally speaking, biotechnology uses cellular and biomolecular processes to develop new technologies and products.
These can range from genetically modified organisms to new medicines and pharmaceuticals.
Biotechnology Lab Equipment List
Biotechnology uses several different types of equipment, depending on the lab’s purpose. A lab used for vaccine production will need different equipment than a lab that modifies crops to be more pest or drought resistant.
However, all biotechnology labs will have DNA sequencing equipment, common lab equipment, and some equipment that is necessary for all of the basic features of biotechnology to work.
DNA Sequencing Equipment
The crux of biotechnology is genetic engineering and DNA sequencing. The modern biotech industry was first formed in the late 1960s and really took off in the late 1970s and early 1980s with early forays into cross-species gene insertion and genetic manipulation, and this emphasis on DNA technology is still a major part of the field today.
This means that there is a great deal of specialized equipment involved to deal with DNA and that you will find DNA lab equipment used in biotechnology labs across various industries.
This equipment includes, but is not limited to the following:
A DNA analyzer processes DNA samples and DNA generated through electrophoresis, PCR, and other techniques. Modern DNA analyzers perform high throughput genetic analysis of DNA fragments, sometimes as many as hundreds of samples in one day.
A DNA analyzer is capable of fragment analysis and can work with microsatellites, SNP analysis, mutation detection, and Sanger-sequenced material.
DNA sequencers automate the DNA sequencing process and create a readable list of the DNA base pairs and the order they are in. DNA sequencing is the first step in being able to edit a genome and do any kind of genetic analysis or genetic engineering.
A fluorometer is a machine that is capable of accurately measuring extremely low concentrations of nucleic acids. It allows scientists to analyze the fluorescence of a sample through an electromagnetic spectroscopy, which means that nucleic acid and other chemical groups can be “tagged” with a fluorescent chemical for easy identification.
PCR machines amplify small segments of DNA or RNA. It is used to make millions of copies of these segments and allows scientists to have enough DNA to study in detail.
Common Lab Equipment
Biotechnology development requires a suite of standard laboratory equipment to function. These tools are fairly common across all sciences and can easily be stowed in custom-built casework to save space in your lab.
- Bunsen burners and hot plates: Used to heat samples
- Lab glassware: Necessary for holding samples and experiments
- Micrometers: For measuring very small distances
- Optical microscopes: Used for basic microscopy
- pH meters and pH papers: Used to measure the pH of substances
- Pipettes: Used to transfer liquids
- Ring stands: Used to hold glassware
- Safety glasses and lab coats: Used to protect scientists
- Scales and balances: Used to measure mass
- Thermometers: Used to measure temperatures
- Thermostats and rheostats: Used to control temperatures
Biotechnology Lab Equipment
This equipment list is more specialized than the short general list above. Much of this equipment is bulky and heavy and requires specialized space like a durable resin countertop or anti-vibration table, or FLEX system table.
Virtually every life science lab needs an autoclave. Autoclaves are necessary to sanitize samples and glassware, and in some cases may be used for sample storage.
These high-temperature, pressurized steam machines can sterilize virtually anything.
A biosafety cabinet filters air and creates airflow to protect cultured cells and microorganisms from contamination. Depending on the type of work being done, biosafety cabinets may be necessary.
A great deal of biotechnology works with viral and bacterial DNA, and cross-contamination can easily occur if the lab is not careful.
Centrifuges separate mixtures into their components based on differential densities. This can include separating liquids and solids, liquids and gasses, and liquids of different densities.
There are multiple types of centrifuges used in biotechnology labs, including low-speed, tabletop, refrigerated, and ultracentrifuges.
Chromatography is used to separate and identify the contents of mixtures, chemicals, and substances. In biotechnology, it has become increasingly important due to its ability to detect the presence of nucleic acids, vitamins, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
Biopharmaceutical research relies heavily on determining the content of these materials in various solutions. There are numerous types of chromatography, including gas, paper, and X-ray chromatography; the type of mixture being analyzed determines the proper technique.
Biotechnology labs that use cell lines will have CO2 incubators to develop and culture those cells. These incubators have a CO2-monitoring device that controls the amount of CO2 in the enclosed incubation space, natural convection with perforated shelves to allow air circulation and a water pan to maintain humidity.
This type of incubator ensures a perfectly controlled environment for the optimum growth of cultured cells.
Liquid Nitrogen Freezer
Sometimes biological samples need to be stored at extremely cold temperatures. This is done with liquid nitrogen freezers, which offer cryopreservation storage at -150°C to -190°C temperatures.
Liquid nitrogen freezers can be used with vapor or liquid phase storage and are the most reliable solutions for long-term cryostorage of cell lines and other organic materials.
Magnetic Stir Bars and Stir Bar Retrievers
Contamination is a major issue in a biotechnology lab. For stirring liquids in these labs, you need magnetic stirrers. These use a rotating magnetic field to move a stir bar around in liquid samples.
To retrieve the stir bar, you will need a strong magnet that lets you remove the metal stir bar without having to reach into your glassware.
Spectrophotometers are useful for liquid analysis. Light of a known wavelength is passed through a liquid, and the light absorption is measured.
This is necessary for quantitative analysis of a solution. It is often used when working with bacteria cultures.
Designing A Biotechnology Lab?
If you are creating a biotechnology laboratory or renovating an existing lab space, let the expert designers at OnePointe Solutions help. We have years of experience designing all types of labs, and we’ve worked with dozens of institutions to produce efficient, functional lab spaces.