Temperature control is critical to many molecular and cellular experiments, but managing sample temperature requires either the use of secondary measuring equipment or long, imprecise incubations in freezers or refrigerators. These inefficient methods lengthen processing time for even the simplest experiments – increasing workload, time pressures, and the risk of human error. With the development of new thermochromic science, product scientists at Labcon have created a series of centrifuge tubes and microcentrifuge tubes that give a rapid, real-time visual cue when the contents in a sample tube have reached a desired temperature.
ViewPoint thermochromic tubes change color with temperature fluctuations
To advance temperature management in laboratory environments, Labcon focused on producing a product that can: 1) save time, 2) help avoid cellular damage in experiments, and 3) identify when a sample has reached a critical temperature. After extensive product testing and validation, Labcon launched a patented product line of thermochromic centrifuge and microcentrifuge tubes called ViewPoint™. At sample temperatures above 4 °C, ViewPoint™ tubes are clear and transparent. At 4 °C, they transition to light blue. At 0 °C and below, ViewPoint™ tubes reach their full progressive transition to dark blue. In addition, ViewPoint™ tubes provide full protection from ultraviolet (UV) light at full opacity. This reversible thermochromic color transition allows researchers to effortlessly monitor and maintain the desired sample temperature throughout experimentation.
ViewPoint™ tubes provide rapid temperature identification, eliminating the need for continuous sample probing and allowing for easy streamlining and optimization of many common lab technique workflows. "ViewPoint™ tubes can help researchers avoid unknowns by making temperature excursions easily observable in real-time," said Bo Heinz, M.Sc., Labcon Product Manager.
To create ViewPoint™ tubes, Labcon worked with leading thermochromic chemists to produce chromophores that can withstand the demands of plastic molding, are certified safe for cell culture experiments, and are capable of precisely reporting changes in sample temperature. To promote wide applicability, two temperatures used in many common lab techniques were chosen to produce visual cues. At room temperature and during a cooling process, ViewPoint™ tubes are clear. The normally colorless polymeric chromophores in the plastic resin are designed to begin clustering at 4 °C, producing a light blue color in the tube walls that signals the desired temperature has been reached by the contained liquid solution. Additionally, for experiments requiring a temperature of 0 °C, the chromophores are tuned to produce a deep blue color when the sample has reached 0 °C.
Many cell culture experiments require chilling samples to 4 °C prior to centrifugation; however, the cooling process creates a problem for researchers. As sample temperatures decrease, the risk of harmful ice crystal formation increases. Ice crystals begin to form as samples approach 0 – 4 °C and are detrimental to sensitive cell culture experiments. “ViewPoint™ tubes are designed as a fail-safe cue before a sample has frozen,” says Scott Weitze, Lead Research Scientist at Labcon. “These thermochromic tubes provide a real-time notification that a sample has reached 4°C and 0 °C, which saves bench scientists time and eliminates generic, inefficient 30-minute incubations.”
The use of centrifuge tubes and microcentrifuge tubes as the direct temperature signaling device was designed to support existing workflows, without the need for reworked protocols or equipment. Surveys of customers indicate that integration of Viewpoint tubes has sped up protocols without disruption to existing SOPs, while opening up novel assay possibilities.