Biological and biomedical research laboratories employ many types of specialised equipment to aid researchers in their work. Biology is a discipline with several sub-disciplines, ranging from ecology and animal behaviour to protein synthesis and genetic regulation of cellular processes. The types of equipment a laboratory utilises will vary according to the particular research interests of the investigator. Some pieces of equipment are highly specialised whereas others can be found in laboratories across a range of sub-disciplines.
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Microscopes can be found in laboratories across biological sub-disciplines. There are many different types of microscopes. Dissection microscopes allow researchers a large area beneath the objectives in which to manipulate biological samples while magnifying the image. Electron microscopes are typically used to view extremely small organisms, such as bacteria or individual components of cellular organelles. Fluorescence microscopes are used to view samples of cells or tissues tagged with small antibody-bound molecules called fluorophores.
For some biological applications, samples of cells or organisms grow best in a media that allows free rotational movement. For example, laboratories that use E. coli bacteria in their experiments often use rotating platforms called orbital shakers on which to grow up bacterial cultures overnight. Laboratory shakers are often available with other optional features. Most shakers have a programmable speed control. Some shakers can incubate samples at a steady temperature while shaking.
Biological laboratories that utilise specific cell populations or tissue types in their research use incubators. These specialised devices provide a sterile and homeostatic environment for cell and tissue cultures to live. Similar to a small refrigerator in appearance, an incubator ensures that cell and tissue samples are maintained in an environment where the temperature and oxygen content of the air are kept constant.
For many biological experiments, it is important to keep samples at a constant temperature or cycle of temperatures for a specific period of time. Temperature blocks are available in many different varieties to assist researchers with this need. Specialised temperature blocks known as thermocyclers feature the ability to fluctuate the temperature for a given amount of time. Thermocyclers are used in molecular biology applications such as the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR.
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