PCR Instrumentation

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Overview

Scientists now have their choice of a wide variety of thermal cyclers, ranging from 48-well personal cyclers to high-throughput multi-bay instruments. To select the right cycler, we recommend considering several factors such as application, current and future throughput, and software.

Related Topics: PCR Reagents, PCR Assay Design and Optimization, PCR Analysis, and PCR Troubleshooting.

Choosing the Right Instrument

The first consideration for choosing the right thermal cycler is often the goal of the PCR reaction and what experiment will be performed downstream.

  • If you often run new PCR assays and need to troubleshoot different annealing temperatures frequently, choose a thermal cycler with a thermal gradient that can be used to optimize the yield and specificity of an assay in a single run.
  • If you are running high-throughput genotyping experiments you may prefer to use a high-performance cyclers with fast ramping speeds to shorten run times
  • If you perform PCR to clone DNA fragments you may prefer to use a thermal cycler that can run large reaction volumes or that is compatible with 0.5 ml tubes

The second consideration is the number of users and the sample throughput.

  • 48-well cyclers are often used as personal systems
  • 96-well cyclers are standard for many laboratories
  • Dual 48/48 well cyclers allow 2 independent protocols to be run simultaneously when there are many people using an instrument
  • Multi-bay cyclers are popular for high-throughput laboratories, although multiple single-bay cyclers are also a good option; some are networkable or have USB ports to transfer protocols between thermal cyclers

A third consideration is flexibility when considering current and future experiments.

  • Thermal cyclers with interchangeable blocks allow various formats such as 96-well, 384-well, dual 48/48-well to be swapped easily without the purchase of an entire new system
  • Some instruments also allow upgradeability to real-time PCR
  • Networkable thermal cyclers allow satellite units to be daisy-chained to a control unit to expand throughput when needed

Lastly, it is wise not to forget the importance of software features and overall ease of use, since these factors can greatly impact the time spent training new users, and getting started with a run regardless of the application or throughput of the laboratory.

Thermal Cycler Selection Chart

Feature
C1000 Touch™

S1000™

T100™

MJ Mini™
Peltier-effect technology
Upgrade to real-time PCR      
Interchangeable sample blocks    
Number of wells 96, 96 deep, dual 48, or 384 96, 96 deep, dual 48, or 384 96 48
Gradient capability
Graphical user interface    
Fast PCR protocol templates
Choice of temperature control mode
Power failure restore
Programmable ramp rates
Networking capability    
Reports on cycler use and performance
Adjustable heated lid  
Full-skirted plate compatibility    
Feature
DNA Engine Dyad®

DNA Engine Tetrad® 2
   
Peltier-effect technology    
Upgrade to real-time PCR        
Interchangeable sample blocks    
Number of wells Varies Varies    
Gradient capability Gradient feature is available on 96-well Alpha™ units Gradient feature is available on 96-well Alpha units    
Graphical user interface    
Fast PCR protocol templates    
Choice of temperature control mode    
Power failure restore    
Programmable ramp rates    
Networking capability        
Remote command set for automation    
Reports on cycler use and performance    
Adjustable heated lid    
Full-skirted plate compatibility    

Related Content

1000-Series System Tour
This animated video gives you a quick overview of the 1000-series Touch thermal cyclers.
 
Literature
Number Description Download
5277 Bio-Rad Thermal Cyclers Brochure, Rev F Click to download
6065 T100 Thermal Cycler Brochure, Rev A Click to download
6094 1000-Series Thermal Cyclers Brochure, Rev B Click to download
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