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Dual centrifugation for in-vial nano-milling and homogenisation

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Alex Henderson

Aston Business School graduate who has been the Managing Director of Henderson Biomedical since January 2015. Passionate about helping laboratories keep their vital equipment operational and compliant. Architecture enthusiast, fitness fanatic and dog lover!

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Dual centrifugation

Dual centrifugation is a fast and convenient nano-milling technique that has been used in the preparation of liposomes for many years now. In this month’s blog, we will give a summary of this unique method and take a closer look at the equipment used to carry out this process.

What is dual centrifugation?

Dual centrifugation, or ‘DC’ as it is sometimes referred to, is a unique process used in university and biotech research laboratories, as well as the pharmaceutical industry. Dual centrifugation is actually the opposite of normal centrifugation. By this, we mean the aim is not to separate the sample, but to mix, shake and homogenise it instead.

How does dual centrifugation work?

The basic principle of Dual Centrifugation is that the sample vial spins in the normal way a centrifuge would. However, whilst spinning, it additionally rotates on its vertical axis. The act of the rotor spinning is known as a ‘primary rotation’, with the additional rotation on its vertical axis known as the ‘secondary rotation’. There are two ways of positioning the sample vial- vertically or horizontally inside the centrifuge bucket. Normally, tubes such as a 15ml or 50ml conical based ‘Falcon’ style tube or 2ml paediatric tubes are usually used for this process.

Image: Massing, Ingebrigtsen, Škalko-Basnet and Holsæter, 2017

The primary rotation may be around 2,500 rpm, whilst the secondary rotation may be up to 900 rpm. The dual movement causes rapid changes of direction of the centrifugal acceleration inside the sample vials. This high impact inside the vial leads to excellent homogenisation. The image below illustrates the process:

What is dual centrifugation used for?

There are a variety of different applications for dual centrifugation including (but not limited to):

  • Preparation of nanoparticles (to prepare liposomes, emulsions, nanocrystals).
  • Extraction (e.g. pesticide analytics in food).
  • Nano-milling (e.g. grains).
  • Blending of viscous compounds (pastes, ointments, silicones, print inks etc).
  • Tissue disruption (of cells or animal materials, plant materials, bacteria or for protein, peptide, nucleic acid and metabolite isolation).
  • Fast dissolution.
  • Degassing.

Advantages of using a dual centrifuge

One could argue that a lab shaker does the same job as a dual centrifuge. However, this is not the case. There are many advantages of a dual centrifuge when compared with a lab shaker.

The very nature of a lab shaker is that it uses alternating acceleration, i.e. there are very short pauses between deceleration and acceleration. This means that the force is not always there and there are very small pauses. A dual centrifuge offers constant force which is continuous until the cycle comes to an end.

In addition to this, a lab shaker will only subject the sample to around 5-20 xg, which is very low and not suitable for some processes. A dual centrifuge will obtain an RCF of up to 1000 xg when spinning at 2,500 rpm. Think of a dual centrifuge like a small cannonball being fired by a canon, whereas a lab shaker is like that same cannonball being thrown by a shot-putter at the Olympic Games.

Other advantages of using a dual centrifuge are as follows:

  • Produce results easily and quickly.
  • The sample remains sterile inside the tube.
  • Toxic or hazardous samples remain sealed inside the tube.
  • Small batches can be processed ready for scaling up.

Equipment used for dual centrifugation

A popular choice is to use the Hettich ZENTRIMIX 380R for carrying out the process of dual centrifugation. This device can also double as a regular centrifuge if needed. The ZENTRIMIX 380R is a refrigerated dual centrifuge capable of speeds up to 2,500 rpm (1,048 xg) and has a maximum capacity of either 6 x 50ml or 40 x 2ml vials.

The ZENTRIMIX 380R has two different mixing rotors and one swing-out rotor which can be used depending on the user’s application.

Hettich ZENTRIMIX 380R dual centrifuge
The Hettich ZENTRIMIX 380R dual centrifuge

How Henderson Biomedical can help

Henderson Biomedical is the Preferred Partner of Hettich, the world’s leading centrifuge manufacturer. We are able to offer great prices on the ZENTRIMIX 380R and are able to provide first-class after sales support for many years to come, since our Field Service Engineers are factory trained by Hettich in Germany.

For more information on the ZENTRIMIX 380R and to discuss your dual centrifugation needs, please contact us on 020 8663 4610 or you can use our online form.

For more detailed information on how a dual centrifuge can be used for the preparation of liposomes, you can view this article.

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