Pocket Fluorometry

Turner Designs' Picofluor portable fluorometer The "smaller is better"

By | May 29, 2000

Turner Designs' Picofluor portable fluorometer
The "smaller is better" technology revolution that has spawned fields such as microfluidics and products such as 1,564-well microplates has also inspired development of convenient, pocket-size lab instruments. Turner Designs Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., has introduced two handheld fluorometers: the Picofluor for life science measurements and the Aquafluor for on-the-spot environmental determinations.

The Picofluor is a lightweight, handheld fluorometer, configurable for many fluorescence probes. Small in size but big in utility, Picofluor provides UV or visible light sources with two preconfigured channels for different fluorescent signals. The instrument accommodates 10x10 mm plastic cuvettes as well as a Minicell (75-250 µl) adapter for smaller volumes. Picofluor can measure fluorescent probes such as Molecular Probes' NanoOrange® (protein), PicoGreen® (double-stranded DNA), and RiboGreen® (RNA); it can also excite UV fluorophores and detect Hoechst 33258 staining of DNA for template quantification. The unit can also be used for GFP, NAPDH, and cell viability/proliferation assays, which are traditionally performed on bench units.

The Aquafluor is an inexpensive handheld fluorometer with watertight design for quick fluorescence measurements outside of the laboratory. It even fits in a shirt or jacket pocket. Dual channel capability allows fluorescence and turbidity measurements; the primary channel can be configured for chlorophyll a or rhodamine WT, with the secondary channel measuring turbidity. These measurements are very sensitive, down to 0.2 parts per billion. Applications of the Aquafluor include field measurement of chlorophyll a, which is a good indicator of algal levels, for monitoring water quality in natural reservoirs, open waters, or for aquaculture. It is also good for quantification of rhodamine WT for fluorescent trace studies such as leak detection, flow monitoring, and tracking contaminant spills.

These instruments share several features, such as a four-decade dynamic range, detector photodiodes for 300-1,000 nm measurements, dual channels that can be toggled with a single button, internal data logging of up to 1,000 points, and a software interface to Microsoft Excel. Both units use AAA batteries, with a five-second warm-up time; solid secondary standards are available to check calibration and stability.

With these fluorometers, Turner Designs has moved researchers one step closer to the dream of the desktop laboratory, but has added another thing for them to fumble for in their pockets.

--Jorge D. Cortese (jorge_cortese@mindspring.com)

For More Information
Turner Designs Inc.
(408) 749-0994,

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