What are the Functions of Microplate Readers?

Microplate Reader

When the pandemic hit us, two years ago, microplate readers became a necessary tool, in all hospitals and laboratories, for testing purposes. They became one of the main instruments in the war we were fighting against the virus. That is because they could produce the fastest diagnostic at the time. In this article, we will explain what the different functions of microplate readers are.

What can You do with a Microplate Reader?

There are mainly two types of microplate readers: The Single-mode and the multimode. Although the cost can be an important factor for a laboratory, when they make the decision between the two, they also need to consider the functions it provides, which leads to the question: What will they be using it for? Usually, the best way to fully understand one’s needs is to discuss it with professionals first. BMG Labtech, being a world leader in this market, it is suggested to refer to them for any question one may have, before proceeding to an acquisition.  

The First question is the same for anyone that will be using a microplate reader: Which assays will they be performing with it? This will go a long way into defining the modes and sub-modes that they will need the microplate reader to offer. There are three main read modes available, which define what functions the microplate reader will be able to perform. We will now explain each of them.

Absorbance Plate Readers

Most common functions: Protein Quantification, Cell viability Assays and Microbial Growth Assays.

The way that absorbance readers work is that they send a specific wavelength of light through the plate, in order to measure the molecules. The results are defined by how much light they actually absorb. These lights can range from UV to Near-infrared.

Fluorescence Plate Readers

Most common functions: Assist researchers in life science and drug discovery, who require repeated absorbance measurements of tagged molecules.

The objective is to excite the fluorophore or fluorescent chemical compound by sending in a broadband light source, which is filtered by a selected excitation wavelength. The result is that the fluorophore converts the wavelength into an emission wavelength including kinetic energy and heat. The detector can then precisely quantify the number of fluorescent molecules. 

Luminescence Plate Readers

Most common functions: Cell viability assays, reporter assays and BRET-based assays.

In this case, no excitation source is needed to do the test. That is because a luminescence plate reader only needs a sensitive detector and no filters. The reader collects the emitted light that is produced without any excitation on the molecule. It is the result of a spontaneous chemical reaction. It is the best solution when it comes to learn more about a molecule, when partnered with other modes.

Other Microplate Reader Functions

Microplate readers can also be used for incubation and shaking, which helps in cellular and enzyme assays. It is often used to increase the temperature in assays that are sensitive to this, through incubation. As for shaking, it helps to keep conditions uniform and makes sure that everything is mixed properly.


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