Vortex Mixers: Essential devices for clinical, research, and analytical lab sample processing

Many sample processing steps in the lab require effective dissolution and suspension of solutes and liquids. Vortex mixers fill this role through a variety of functional capabilities, and are therefore an important and valuable laboratory fixture.

Few if any mixing techniques offer the consistency of a vortex mixer. Approaches such as manually flicking and tapping of samples or fixing samples to a rotary shaker or other device can lead to crucial variations in sample behavior and experimental results. By controlling the speed and acceleration of the mixing process using a vortex mixer, each sample can be treated with accuracy and with minimal variation. Another advantage is the ability to reliably monitor the duration of mixing time.

A range of speeds for a range of mixture materials
The acceleration can be controlled from always on to touch activated. As well, the speed can be adjusted typically over the range of 100 to 3,200 rpm, although fixed and higher speed models are available. These features are important, as each sample has unique requirements for either dissolving a solute, combing solutions (sometimes of different phases), or simply suspending components (such as cells or beads).

Versatility for single sample or batch processing
Another significant and valuable feature of the vortex mixer is versatility. A rubber cup fixed to the vertical mixing shaft is the typical configuration for single samples. A rubber textured disc-shaped platform can also be used for single samples of varying shapes and sizes. Other mixing heads for batch processing include microtiter/tissue culture plate holders and micro tube/culture tube holders. A more recent development includes temperature control add-ons to maintain optimal conditions for mixing. Most models allow each of the different mixing heads to be removed and swapped by simply snapping the new head onto the vertical mixing shaft. Hence, one vortex mixer can perform a multitude of functions, thereby adding significant versatility and value to the lab.

New or Used?
Used vortex mixers can be attractive, as there are relatively few moving parts and therefore a low potential for wear. A refurbished motor or mixing shaft can sometimes be a fix in this respect. However, there are several less obvious parts that may complicate the picture. An example is a worn rubber fitting on the mixing shaft which normally allows the various heads to be snapped into place. Without a firm attachment, heads can become dislodged and samples can be lost. This and other risks, coupled with the fact that new devices are typically very reasonable, makes buying new a viable choice.

Product Spotlight – Scientific Instruments Vortex Genie 1 - Genie 2 – Genie 2T
The Vortex Genie 1 is a touch activated constant high-speed mixer. The sample is simply pressed down and held on the mixing head while the device mixes at high speed. Release from the mixing head results in stoppage. The Vortex Genie 1 is a tried and true work horse device whose limited versatility is matched with a lower cost - generally a good fit for basic applications. The Vortex Genie 2 has a variable speed control to allow a range of actions from slow to high-speed in order to suit each application. Another added feature is a 3-position power switch, allowing the user to toggle between “touch mode, on, and off”. Beyond these differences, the Vortex Genie 2 includes both a digital version and a digital timer version (Genie 2T). These models have a range of valuable features which offer enhanced accuracy and precision for more demanding applications.