Flat plate with multiple "wells" used as small test tubes / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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A microplate, also known as a microtiter plate (Microtiter is a registered trademark in the United States, therefore it should not be used generically without attribution), microwell plate or multiwell, is a flat plate with multiple "wells" used as small test tubes. The microplate has become a standard tool in analytical research and clinical diagnostic testing laboratories. A very common usage is in the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), the basis of most modern medical diagnostic testing in humans and animals.
A microplate typically has 6, 12, 24, 48, 96, 384 or 1536 sample wells arranged in a 2:3 rectangular matrix. Some microplates have been manufactured with 3456 or 9600 wells, and an "array tape" product has been developed that provides a continuous strip of microplates embossed on a flexible plastic tape.
Each well of a microplate typically holds somewhere between tens of nanolitres to several millilitres of liquid. They can also be used to store dry powder or as racks to support glass tube inserts. Wells can be either circular or square. For compound storage applications, square wells with close fitting silicone cap-mats are preferred. Microplates can be stored at low temperatures for long periods, may be heated to increase the rate of solvent evaporation from their wells and can even be heat-sealed with foil or clear film. Microplates with an embedded layer of filter material were developed in the early 1980s by several companies, and today, there are microplates for just about every application in life science research which involves filtration, separation, optical detection, storage, reaction mixing, cell culture and detection of antimicrobial activity.
The enormous growth in studies of whole live cells has led to an entirely new range of microplate products which are "tissue culture treated" especially for this work. The surfaces of these products are modified using an oxygen plasma discharge to make their surfaces more hydrophilic so that it becomes easier for adherent cells to grow on the surface which would otherwise be strongly hydrophobic.
A number of companies have developed robots to specifically handle microplates. These robots may be liquid handlers which aspirate or dispense liquid samples from and to these plates, or "plate movers" which transport them between instruments, plate stackers which store microplates during these processes, plate hotels for longer-term storage, plate washers for processing plates, plate thermal sealers for applying heat seals, de-sealers for removing heat seals, or microplate incubators to ensure constant temperature during testing. Instrument companies have designed plate readers which can detect specific biological, chemical or physical events in samples stored in these plates. A specialized plate reader has also been developed which can perform quality control of microplate well contents, capable of identifying empty wells, filled wells and precipitate.