Common Microbiology Laboratory Equipment

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  • 0:04 Inside a Microbiology Lab
  • 0:19 Smaller Items
  • 2:13 Larger Items
  • 4:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bridgett Payseur

Bridgett has a PhD in microbiology and immunology and teaches college biology.

Microbiology labs have many important pieces of equipment to get the job done. In this lesson, learn what types of equipment are used and what their purpose is.

Inside a Microbiology Lab

A microbiology lab is a place to grow and study tiny organisms, called microbes. Microbes can include bacteria and viruses.

Microbiology labs need equipment to help properly grow and culture these organisms.

Smaller Items

Smaller pieces of equipment in microbiology labs are often used to help prepare the growth medium. These are table-top sized pieces of equipment that help ensure accuracy and consistency.


A centrifuge spins test tubes full of material very quickly. This helps separate components based on their density. Large centrifuges can hold larger test tubes. Smaller centrifuges, called microfuges, can hold small tubes.

When using a centrifuge, it is important to balance the contents. This means that weight is evenly distributed throughout the centrifuge. If the centrifuge is not balanced while spinning, it can shake and end up being damaged.

Scale and Balance

A scale is used to weigh ingredients being added to growth media. Most scales are electric. They have a flat area that the ingredient can be sat on and an readout screen indicating the mass in grams.

A balance is similar to a scale, in that it is used to measure weight. However, a balance is used to compare the weight of two different items. These are helpful, for example, when a lab technologist needs to make sure that items added to a centrifuge weigh the same so that the centrifuge stays balanced.

pH Meter

A pH meter is used to measure the acidity of a solution. When preparing media for growing microbes, it's important to have the proper pH balance. If the pH is too low or too high, the organism might not grow. In addition, maintaining consistent pH helps keep all experiments constant in a lab.

A pH meter generally consists of a probe that is inserted into the solution. A screen has the readout of the pH, which can be adjusted if needed.


Magentic stirrers, as the name implies, help with stirring. Ingredients for media can be added to a flask or beaker, and a small magnetic bar is put in the bottom. The flask or test tube is then placed on top of the magnetic stirrer. Magnets in the stirrer spin the bar piece around, creating a vortex that helps thoroughly mix all the ingredients.

Larger Items

Microbiology labs also require larger items that can't necessarily fit on a table top. While all of these items can come in versions that fit on a table top, bigger versions are more efficient for processing and storing larger quantities of materials.


An incubator is a piece of equipment that maintains a specific temperature. This is important, as most microbes prefer to grow at temperatures warmer than room temperature. Incubators generally have a range of temperatures. A digital selection screen helps make sure the temperature remains precise.


A refrigerator has the opposite job of an incubator. While incubators help increase temperature, refrigerators lower the temperature. Refrigerators and freezers are mostly used for storage. They can store media, ingredients, and even stocks of the microbes themselves.

Some microbes are able to grow at refrigerator temperature as well. Naturally, these are best studied when grown in a refrigerator instead of an incubator.


An autoclave is used to help sterilize glassware, media, and waste in microbiology laboratories. Autoclaves are similar to giant pressure cookers. They require water, which is heated to produce steam. The steam increases the pressure in the autoclave, which allows the temperature to rise even higher.

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