Selecting a Thermal Cycler on Amazon.com
A thermal cycler, often called a PCR machine, PCR primer, or thermocycler, is used in research and forensic science to perform DNA amplification using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Tabletop thermal cyclers are designed for frequent and repeated use in high-volume labs. Some models are designed for field work or crime scene investigation. They accommodate a small quantity of samples and are powered by a car charger. Front-loading models allow stacking in order to make better use of bench space.
Samples are placed in a genomic microplate, or PRC plate, for processing. The cavity of the thermocycler is designed to support a specific size microplate. Though mini thermocyclers can have as few as 16 wells, most laboratory models have between 96 wells and 384 wells. Interchangeable trays speed processing and enable operators to customize tray configurations according to the sample size and number of wells. Some models have heated lids to prevent evaporation during processing.
Ramp rates, the time it takes for the cavity to reach the desired temperature, affects the total time required to process a sample, making this an important consideration for high-volume labs. Digital, microprocessor-controlled thermal cyclers are often programmable to speed processing and ensure that operators run batches with the same settings. Programmable time, temperature, and thermal gradients further enable operators to customize processing according to specific needs for research and forensic applications. Datalogging and computer interface features provide long-term records retention and quality assurance verification required in forensic labs and other settings with strict protocols. Some digital thermal cyclers can be daisy-chained to allow a master unit to control multiple stations, enabling labs to expand capacity as needed while ensuring consistent processing protocols.
Features to consider when selecting a thermal cycler include temperature range, volume of work expected, data export, PCR plate size and sample size, heated lids, power source requirements.