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Precision Laboratory Pipettes for Life Science Research

A pipette is a measuring tool designed to aspirate and dispense specific volumes of liquids. Pipettes are used globally in top academic, biotechnology and pharmaceutical life science research laboratories. Rainin offers a wide range of ergonomic pipettes that include single-channel, multichannel and specialty pipettes.

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What is a pipette?

Pipettes (also known as micropipettes) are handheld instruments commonly used in academic, biotech, pharmaceutical and other labs to transfer precise amounts of liquid from one container to another.

Pipettes range from very basic graduated glass tubes to sophisticated precision instruments that, along with pipette tips are capable of aspirating and dispensing liquid in increments as small as a fraction of a microliter.

The most common pipette used in life science labs around the world is the single-channel air displacement pipette. Rainin pipettes are available in both manual and electronic models and are available as single channel, multichannel, and multichannel adjustable spacer pipettes.

What is a pipette?

How does a pipette work?

There are two types of pipettes: Positive displacement and air pipettes. Positive displacement pipettes are commonly used for samples of high viscosity (e.g. glycerol) or high vapor pressure (e.g. volatiles like alcohol), while air-displacement pipettes can be used for a majority of laboratory applications.

Modern pipettes, also known as micropipettes, work with a piston-stroke principle – liquid is measured using the piston-cylinder system in the handle of the pipette. When the piston is depressed and then slowly released, the movement of the piston creates a vacuum in the pipette tip and thus draws liquid up inside the tip; which is called aspiration.

Since the piston in a pipette is a long way from the liquid sample, the air cushion between the piston and liquid can have a number of effects on the accuracy of this process, depending on the liquid type. Pressing down on the plunger that has a tip full of liquid expels the liquid out from the tip; this is called dispensing.

Positive displacement pipettes work on a similar principle, however the tip of the positive displacement system contains its own piston and hence there is a minimal air cushion between the piston (that is part of the tip) and the liquid surface.

How does a pipette work?

What is pipetting accuracy and precision?

Pipetting accuracy is the ability of a pipette to deliver the volume specified on the volume setting. In other words, the trueness of a measurement to the true value depends on the interplay of the elements in the system.

Pipetting precision is the ability of a pipette to consistently deliver same-sized volumes of liquid over multiple aliquots. A pipette can be precise with regard to dispensing the same volume time after time, yet inaccurate because it fails to dispense the correct volume. An accurate and precise pipette dispenses volumes at the intended volume with each dispense.

The pipette, the pipette tip, and the person operating the pipette form a 3-part system. The pipette operator, the person using the pipette to conduct research, has a high degree of influence on the accuracy of results. As such, it is important that operators are trained to use a pipette. There are some powerful, yet simple techniques that can greatly improve pipetting accuracy. The Rainin Pipetting Technique poster offers a good summary. Additionally, Rainin offers the Good Pipetting Practice online seminar to assist in learning the proper way to pipette.

Where can I buy a pipette?

Rainin offers a wide range of manual and electronic single channel, multichannel, or high throughput pipetting instruments and calibration services to ensure your results remain accurate. Rainin pipettes are available globally for purchase. Interested in purchasing a pipette? Request a quote at the top of this page.

Where can I buy a pipette?

What is the price of a pipette?

How much a pipette costs depends on the type of pipette: single or multichannel, manual or electronic. Pipette price varies based on precision (accuracy specifications), materials, and craftsmanship. 

What is a pipette used for in science?

A pipette is used as a precision tool designed to move a measured amount of solution from one location to another in a range from microliters to milliliters. Pipettes are used in laboratories worldwide, including labs involved in life science research experimentation, chemical testing, petroleum, and food manufacturing. They are used in any industry that has biological testing as a requirement.

Which pipette should I use?

To choose the suitable pipette for the task, consider a few factors: liquid type, number of replicates, time sensitivity and pipetting volume.

First, what type of liquid are you pipetting? An air-displacement pipette will work well if the liquid is aqueous or near aqueous. If the liquid is viscous or volatile, a positive-displacement pipette will deliver better results than an air-displacement pipette. Air-displacement pipettes have air inside that can be stretched or compressed when working with viscous liquids or expanded by the rapid evaporation of a volatile liquid into the pipette’s interior chamber. Positive-displacement pipettes, by contrast, have a piston that extends to the syringe-like tip’s opening. This preserves pipetting accuracy by removing air from the system. 

The type of vessels involved in your application and the number of replicates are also critical factors in selecting a pipette. A manual single-channel pipette works well for a small number of dispenses into most tubes and plates. But if you’re pipetting into many wells or tubes, multichannel pipettes and electronic pipettes can ease the burden on the pipetting hand. Multichannel pipettes fill plate rows efficiently, and adjustable-spacer versions give you a convenient way to move between differently-spaced vessels like tubes and plates. Electronic pipettes also offer the added benefit of dispensing multiple aliquots from a single aspiration – even in a sequence of different volumes. And with a cycle counter, electronic pipettes help you keep track of where you are in your protocol. Finally, consider a high-throughput solution if your intended number of replicates fills multiple plates.

Is your protocol time-sensitive? Consider multichannel pipettes and high-throughput pipetting platforms to accomplish the most in the least amount of time. Electronic versions of these instruments can deliver the most significant time savings.

Finally, what volume are you pipetting? For accurate results, work between 10-100% of a pipette’s nominal volume. Volumes near a pipette’s full nominal volume will deliver the highest accuracy. Avoid pipetting 20 µL using a 1,000 µL pipette. Instead, pipette 20 µL using a 20 µL pipette. Pipette sizes range from 1 µL to as large as 20 mL, and even larger volumes can be accurately transferred using serological pipettes.  

Which pipette should I use?