The Uses of Centrifuge Tubes: Things to Consider When Purchasing Centrifuge Tubes

The Uses of Centrifuge Tubes: Things to Consider When Purchasing Centrifuge Tubes

Centrifuge tubes differ from regular test tubes and are explicitly for centrifugation. Centrifugation is when you spin liquids at high speeds to separate their components. Centrifuge tubes are essential to this process.

But what goes into purchasing centrifuge tubes? Is it as simple as choosing sterile tubes and going on about your day? There are various considerations to account for when purchasing centrifuge tubes.

For example, you can choose glass or plastic centrifuge tubes. In this article, you’ll learn more about the different kinds of centrifuge tubes and what you should consider before purchasing them.

Uses of Centrifuge Tubes

Centrifuge tubes are used to separate a substance into its components. Below are a few examples of fields that use centrifuge tubes.

Instrument Longevity

Certain laboratory instruments are sensitive to contaminants. Mass spectrometers and high-pressure chromatography units may become clogged by extraneous materials that find their way into these machines.

These instruments work by injecting small samples of material through columns. Next, the analytes are separated from the samples, which are then studied via specialized software.

Centrifuge tubes are important to prevent laboratory instruments from being clogged. The idea is to use these tubes to keep analytes separate from any potential substances that could interfere with test samples.

Medical Samples

Bloodwork is probably what comes to mind when discussing centrifuge tubes. Centrifugation separates organelles from blood cells as the latter sinks. Centrifugation also enables DNA and RNA extraction from cells.

Sample Processing

Sometimes, a contaminant can find its way inside a sample that needs analyzing. The goal of sample processing is to remove that contaminant so the sample can be properly studied. This is where centrifugation is key.

The centrifugal process separates the sample from the contaminant which leaves a viable specimen to study. To further separate the two substances, the analyst may remove the liquid sample from the tube with a pipet.

What To Consider When Buying Centrifuge Tubes?

There are many factors to account for when purchasing centrifuge tubes. Tubes differ in their performance, and it’s up to you to decide which factors make the best tube for your needs. Here are a few considerations when choosing your centrifuge tubes.

Chemical Resistance

Material type matters a lot when talking about how resistant a tube is to certain chemicals. You should absolutely consider what kind of chemicals you’re working with and make sure the tube can withstand the substance.

Polypropylene (PP) is a popular material because it can hold up against high speeds and is resistant to most organic solvents. However, it’s still a good idea to check your PP tubes’ resistance before use.

Relative Centrifugal Force

There’s a maximum speed at which a centrifuge tube can spin. Each brand can vary wildly between how much speed they can withstand, which is why choosing the right tubes is essential.

Look at the relative centrifugal force (RCF) to determine what speed you can spin a particular tube. The RCF is the gravitational force applied when operating a centrifuge. RCF can factor into a centrifuge tube’s pricing.

It may sound like rotation per minute (RPM) would be the feature you’d look at when deciding what kind of tube to buy. But RPM only measures rotor speed. Too much gravitational force can damage an ill-suited tube.

When buying tubes, it’s easier to budget if you figure out what RCF speeds you need first. You can purchase centrifuge tubes with low RCF ratings if you’re not working with high speeds

Glass Vs. Plastic

Glass may be the better option to ensure you’re working with sterile tubes because the material is easier to clean after. Plastic isn’t difficult to clean but is harder to sterilize. Glass is also a safer alternative for containing corrosive metals. Glass centrifuge tubes are rare to come across.

Glass can hold up better against hotter temperatures but has disadvantages compared to plastic. Plastic is more durable and less expensive. You won’t find glass tubes in small enough sizes for microcentrifuges either.


When purchasing centrifuge tubes, the final thing to consider is how much you’ll need to fill them. Most times, you’ll only fill a centrifuge tube three-fourths of the way. Overfilling a tube can cause leaking.

Ultracentrifuge tubes are an exception. These centrifuges spin at very high speeds, and the tubes need to be filled to the top to avoid collapsing. You must take care not to underfill tubes either.

The best way to know your tube’s volume requirement is to read the manufacturer’s specifications. There’s still a potential issue, though. Just because your tube is the right volume doesn’t mean it’ll fit the centrifuge.

A centrifuge tube may meet your qualifications but not fit the centrifuge rotor capacity. You can overcome this issue by purchasing a rotor adapter. Most manufacturers have adapters, so finding one shouldn’t be too difficult.

Find Sterile Tubes For Your Centrifugal Needs!

Centrifugal tubes primarily come in plastic and glass. From there, you can choose between self-standing and conical tubes and reusable or disposable tubes. Glass tubes are easier to clean but are less durable.

Plastic centrifuge tubes are more difficult to clean but come in various sizes. If you’re looking to purchase quality centrifuge tubes, consider what material works best for your purposes.

If you need sterile centrifuge tubes or other laboratory tools, then contact MarathonLS. We can assist with any supply-related questions and provide all your lab and safety gear. 


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