What are the two most common types of centrifuge heads?



Centrifuges are highly efficient and powerful laboratory equipment used to separate substances of different densities. They work on the principle of centrifugal force, which allows the separation of solid particles from liquids or the separation of two immiscible liquids. Centrifuge heads play a crucial role in the functioning of a centrifuge, as they hold the samples being processed and spin them at high speeds. In this article, we will explore the two most common types of centrifuge heads and their applications in various fields.

1. Fixed-Angle Centrifuge Heads:

Fixed-angle centrifuge heads, also known as angle rotors, are the most commonly used type of centrifuge heads. They feature tubes that are positioned at a fixed angle during operation, typically at an angle of 45 degrees. This design allows the sedimentation of particles to occur along the tube walls, leading to efficient separation.

These heads consist of multiple tube slots, which can hold individual sample tubes. The tubes are usually made of plastic or glass and come in various sizes to accommodate different sample volumes. Fixed-angle heads offer excellent separation performance, especially when dealing with small volumes. They are ideal for applications such as isolating DNA, RNA, and proteins in molecular biology and biochemistry research.

One of the advantages of fixed-angle centrifuge heads is that they prevent cross-contamination between samples. Since the tubes remain fixed in the same position throughout the spinning process, there is no contact between different samples. This makes fixed-angle heads highly suitable for precious or sensitive samples, where contamination could compromise the results.

Furthermore, fixed-angle heads offer a compact design, making them compatible with a wide range of centrifuge models. Their versatility and ease of use have made them a staple in laboratories across various scientific disciplines.

2. Swinging-Bucket Centrifuge Heads:

Swinging-bucket centrifuge heads, also known as swing-out rotors, represent another commonly used type of centrifuge heads. Unlike fixed-angle heads, swinging-bucket heads have tubes that swing outward as the centrifuge spins, altering the angle at which the tubes are positioned. This swinging motion allows for different levels of separation, depending on the desired outcome.

The tubes in swinging-bucket heads remain upright during the initial stages of the centrifugation process. As the rotation speed increases, the swinging motion causes the tubes to move outward, creating a wider angle. This mechanism enhances the separation of particles and enables more efficient extraction of substances from the liquid phase. Swinging-bucket heads are particularly useful when dealing with larger sample volumes.

These heads feature buckets that hold the sample tubes. The buckets are attached to a central axis, allowing them to swing during rotation. The movement of the buckets ensures that the tubes experience varying gravitational forces during the centrifugation process, leading to different levels of separation. Swinging-bucket heads find applications in numerous fields, including clinical diagnostics, pharmaceutical research, and environmental testing.

Swinging-bucket centrifuge heads provide the advantage of allowing maximum recovery of the separated substances. When the centrifuge comes to a stop, the swinging motion ceases, and the tubes return to an upright position. This position makes it easy to retrieve the separated substances without contamination and ensures maximum yields of valuable samples.

3. Application in Clinical Research:

In clinical research, centrifuge heads play a vital role in various diagnostic procedures and sample preparation techniques. Fixed-angle heads are commonly employed in clinical laboratories for performing tests such as complete blood counts (CBC), where the separation of different blood components is required. By spinning blood samples at high speeds, the red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets can be separated for individual analysis.

Swinging-bucket heads find applications in the field of clinical research for the separation of serum or plasma from blood samples. These separated components are then used for various biochemical tests, hormone assays, and disease marker analysis. The swinging motion of the tubes in these heads facilitates the efficient separation of these components, ensuring accurate diagnostic results.

The versatility of centrifuge heads makes them invaluable in clinical research, as they can accommodate a wide range of sample volumes and types. Furthermore, the ability to maintain the integrity of the samples throughout the separation process ensures accurate diagnoses and reliable research outcomes.

4. Importance in Pharmaceutical Development:

Centrifuge heads are of great importance in the field of pharmaceutical development and manufacturing. They are used for various applications, such as the separation of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) from suspension formulations, isolation of cells for biopharmaceutical production, and purification of drug formulations.

Fixed-angle heads are commonly employed in pharmaceutical laboratories for the separation of particles from suspensions during drug formulation development. These heads enable the removal of unwanted impurities or particles that could affect the quality and efficacy of the final product. By efficiently separating the desired particles, fixed-angle heads contribute to enhanced purity and consistency in pharmaceutical formulations.

Swinging-bucket heads find applications in biopharmaceutical production, where the separation of cells from culture media or the purification of therapeutic proteins is essential. The swinging motion of the tubes ensures effective separation and recovery of cells or proteins, leading to improved product yield and purity.

In the pharmaceutical industry, the use of centrifuge heads is vital for ensuring the quality and safety of drug products. They aid in the development, manufacturing, and quality control processes, helping to meet the strict regulatory requirements set by health authorities.

5. Environmental and Research Applications:

Centrifuge heads also find applications in environmental testing and various research disciplines. Both fixed-angle and swinging-bucket heads are utilized for the separation of pollutants, sediments, and microorganisms from environmental samples such as water, soil, and air.

In environmental research, centrifuge heads are crucial for the analysis of suspended particles and the extraction of essential components for further investigation. The versatility of these heads enables researchers to customize the centrifugation parameters to meet the specific requirements of their analyses.

Moreover, centrifuge heads play a significant role in research fields such as molecular biology, biochemistry, and cell biology. They contribute to DNA extraction, protein purification, cell isolation, and other crucial techniques necessary for understanding biological processes and developing new therapies.


Centrifuge heads are integral components of centrifuges, enabling efficient separation of substances in various scientific and medical applications. Fixed-angle heads provide excellent performance for small volume applications, while swinging-bucket heads offer versatile separation for larger samples. These heads are indispensable in clinical research, pharmaceutical development, environmental testing, and numerous research disciplines. They facilitate accurate diagnoses, enhance the purity of drug formulations, and contribute to advancements in scientific knowledge. With their diverse applications and impact across different fields, centrifuge heads continue to play a critical role in driving progress and discoveries in the scientific community.


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