Microplates are small plastic reaction vessels. Microplates, by design, are trays or cassettes that are covered with wells or dimples arranged in orderly rows. These wells are used to conduct separate chemical reactions. The large number of wells, which typically number 96 or 384, depending upon the size of the microplate, allow for many different reactions to take place at the same time. This can be useful if the goal is to determine a statistical basis for research results, to test for aberrations in an expected result, or to run a number of unrelated reactions at the same time. Microplates are ideal for high-throughput screening and research. They allow miniaturization of assays and are suitable for many applications including drug testing, genetic study, and combinatorial chemistry.
While most microplates are of standard manufacture, specialized microplates are available including clear bottom types, UV treated microplates, fluorescence microplates, and luminescent styles. Clear bottom microplates are ideal for fluorometric applications as well as cell and tissue culturation. UV treated microplates are for use with protein and nucleic acid concentrations, and research involving DNA testing or sequencing. Fluorescence microplates are available with black or white pigments to reduce background signals or enhance reflectivity. Luminescent vessels provide high reflectivity, medium binding and low cross talk. Additional designs include microplates that are designed to resist corrosives or solvents.
While some reactions may lead the researcher to discard associated microplates, in general, microplates are designed for reuse. Specialized microplate washers are available for laboratory and research settings where extensive use of microplates is expected.