What is a PCR Workstation?

What is a PCR workstation? They have so many functions and uses, it can be hard to really understand what makes a PCR workstation and to know whether or not you need one for your application. Once you know what a PCR workstation is, you'll find that there are multiple types to choose from, making it even more difficult to figure out which one is best suited to your needs. But do not let that intimidate you; with a little knowledge under your belt, you'll be able to make the right decision regarding a PCR workstation.

What is a PCR Workstation?

So let's start with the basics. PCR stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction, which was a method developed in the 1980s by biochemist Kary Mullis. PCR was developed in order to amplify, or multiply, a particular section of a strand of DNA to make study of that segment easier. PCR has various applications ranging from medicine to environmental study to crime scene investigation.

Because cross contamination during PCR work can produce inaccurate results, a clean environment was required. As the PCR method was being refined, PCR workstations were developed to help make the process as error-free as possible. PCR workstations prevent background and cross contamination by keeping all contaminants in the air away from samples. They go by a variety of names: PCR hoods, clean benches, laminar flow hoods, and the list goes on.

PCR workstations are essentially three-sided boxes. On the front, there is a panel or sash that gives the operator access to the workspace. They utilize high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to remove airborne contaminants found in the lab and direct the clean air down over the work surface. AirClean Systems' HEPA filters have a 99.997% efficiency rating for collecting 0.3 micron particles, providing an ISO 5 environment for samples within the workstation.

In addition to this miniature clean room environment, AirClean Systems PCR Workstations include features to further help prevent cross contamination. Our PCR workstations include germicidal UV lights designed to surface disinfect items used in the PCR process. The standard pipette shelf, with built in holders, is designed to add convenience and ease. With the press of a button, the UV light can be engaged and items like pipette tips can be quickly surface disinfected.

While our PCR Workstations might be clear, there is no need to worry about potential UV exposure. Our polycarbonate naturally reflects UV light and does not yellow or crack over time, like other clear plastics. A safety switch, which is standard on each product, will automatically disengage the UV light if the sash is raised during the disinfection cycle.

When to Use a PCR Workstation

While PCR workstations are primarily thought of in conjunction with medical applications, they can be used for a multitude of applications. They are best suited for work which requires particle-free air and which seeks to protect the process being carried out. Some possibilities include media plate preparation, plant tissue cultures, assembly of electronic devices, and mycology. Ultimately, a PCR workstation is great for any application where you seek to protect your work from contamination.

As important as knowing what PCR workstations can be used for is knowing what they cannot be used for. They should not be used whenever you are seeking to protect the operator from the substance(s) being worked on. According to the University of New Hampshire, "Clean benches should never be used when handling cell culture materials, drug formulations, potentially infectious materials, or any other potentially hazardous materials. The worker will be exposed to the materials being manipulated on the clean bench potentially resulting in hypersensitivity, toxicity or infection depending on the materials being handled."

So, if your application requires a clean, particulate-free environment to prevent background or contamination, a PCR workstation is perfectly suited to your needs.