FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

General

Yes, we sell and ship our products outside of the USA (with some exceptions due to international trade regulations). Some countries impose customs duties, tariffs, taxes, or VAT on imported items. As the importer, you are responsible for these costs which will be billed to you directly by the freight carrier. We are unable to give estimates of such costs as they can vary by country. To place an order, visit our store or contact us to identify an authorized miniPCR® distributor in your country.

The miniPCR® Limited Warranty and blueGel™ Limited Warranty cover defects in materials and workmanship for a period of 24 months from the date of purchase.  They do not cover wear and tear to components resulting from normal use of the products, nor does it cover failures caused by incorrect use, negligence, alterations, or damage caused by intentional or accidental misuse of equipment.

miniPCR®

miniPCR® machines have been rigorously tested by our team of Ph.D. molecular biologists. They have also been independently tested by third party scientists at leading university and industry labs on a broad range of applications including cloning, screening, genotyping, microbial detection, personal ID, and other uses. Both internal and third-party tests found miniPCR® to work as well as or better than a variety of other thermal cyclers tested. See performance validation reports here and peer-reviewed publications here.

Pretty fast. Being able to do high-speed PCR, especially in time constrained settings such as STEM education environments and field diagnostics, is a key step to make molecular biology accessible and practicable. In this article we share how the miniPCR® machine can be used to deliver robust and reproducible PCR results in 24 minutes or less.

miniPCR® gives students full ownership over their DNA experiments. Many miniPCR® users are high schools, colleges and science outreach groups. They tell us that miniPCR® enhances the classroom experience. They appreciate that students themselves can do their DNA experiments from start to finish, fully engaging with the instrument. miniPCR® Apps allows students to program their own reactions and to track the temperature in real-time, while animations illustrate changes to the DNA molecule during different steps in PCR.

We have also heard from many teachers how having a low-cost PCR instrument eliminates the fear of putting it fully in the hands of students.

Users have shared a variety of reasons for which they love miniPCR®, including:
(i) The ability to put a PCR machine directly on their bench, right where they are working
(ii) Ease of operation.
(iii) Ease of creating, storing, and sharing programs without interfering with other users
(iv) Ease of use as a heat block.
(v) miniPCR® devices can be easily shared and loaned
(vi) miniPCR® devices expand your PCR capacity without having to spend thousands of $$$.

Some of our happiest users just love the convenience of having their own personal PCR machine.

Yes, miniPCR® uses standard 200 microliter PCR tubes and standard PCR reagents. miniPCR® wells are spaced so that they can accept 8-tube strips.

You can cool samples down to room temperature but not to 4°C. You can leave reaction tubes inside the miniPCR® at room temperature following your run (Taq-amplified DNA is extremely stable in PCR buffer at room temperature, for at least 2 weeks and even more). If you plan on storing your reactions for use after several days, refrigerate the tubes after finishing a run.

Most, if not all PCR machines in the market today use thermoelectric heating (also known as Peltier) because it is a reliable technology that allows for fast heating and cooling of samples. The drawbacks are that these devices need a large heat sink and a large cooling element to be effective. They also typically need hefty power supplies to support their energy requirements. By rethinking the heating and cooling technologies, and innovating the block design, we were able to shrink the machine to create a truly portable and accessible mini thermal cycler.

You only need a computer or phone to program your miniPCR® machine. Once programmed, miniPCR® will keep the program in memory. It can be unplugged from your computer or phone and it will keep running your program, and you can follow the progress through the LED interface. If you wish to restart the same program, just flip the power switch OFF and then ON again.

blueGel™

Most green fluorescent nucleic acid dyes designed for gel staining are compatible with standard visible blue-light excitation (470-490 nm range). This includes laser-based gel scanner.  We recommend GelGreen™ or GreenView™ Plus as safe and sensitive alternatives to ethidium bromide, available in our store.

blueGel™ makes electrophoresis safer by using low voltage, non-hazardous DNA stains (i.e. no Ethidium Bromide), and through an electromechanic circuit gating mechanism that makes the run chamber completely inaccessible during a run, minimizing the risk of accidental electric shocks.

Separation with blueGel™ can be seen in as little as five minutes. On a 1% gel you will see informative band separation within 15-20 minutes, and on a 2% gel in 20-30 minutes. Run time with blueGel™ is comparable to other larger systems that run at 2 or 3 times higher voltages.

We recommend the use of TBE electrophoresis buffer (Tris/Borate/EDTA) available in miniPCR™ store or other vendors.  1 liter of 20x stock solution can be made by mixing 108g Tris base, 55g Boric acid, 40ml 0.5M EDTA (ph 8.0)

The blueGel™ electrophoresis system is safe, fast, compact, durable, and easy to use. Students can visualize results instantly using a convenient, all-in-one device. Educators can confidently bring electrophoresis into their classrooms using lowe voltage, safe blue light, and safe nucleic acid staining. All these features make blueGel™ an ideal gel electrophoresis system for education.

Learning Labs™

Unless otherwise noted, miniPCR bio Learning Labs provide enough reagents to support eight (8) lab groups. For PCR-based labs, this usually includes reagents for four (4) reactions per group. If performing a lab that requires isolating student DNA from a cheek swab, there are enough reagents for 32 reactions.

Storage requirements are listed in the “What’s Included” tab of the Learning Lab product page, in the lab Instructor’s Guide, and on the Learning Lab packaging. Typically, labs are stored at either -20 °C, 4 °C, or room temperature. If -20 °C is recommended, a normal household or lab freezer is sufficient. If 4 °C is recommended, a normal household or lab refrigerator is sufficient. For room temperature storage, it is always good practice to store reagents protected from light.

As a general rule, PCR, gel electrophoresis, and P51 labs are good for one year from the date of shipment. BioBits labs are good for six months from the date of shipment. If you need to order Learning Labs now for future use, you may ask us to delay shipment on your order.

Performing a PCR- or electrophoresis-based Learning Lab requires some materials and reagents that are not provided with the lab. This includes 0.2 ml and 1.7 ml tubes, electrophoresis buffer, agarose, and DNA stain. Some teaching labs prefer to purchase these materials separately in larger quantities as they are generally interchangeable between labs. We don’t want to sell you more than you need, which is why we make purchasing the Learning Lab Companion Kit optional. The Lab Companion Kit provides enough of these materials for one miniPCR bio Learning Lab. It does not include pipette tips. 

Included reagents are listed on each Learning Lab’s product page and in the Instructor’s Guide also available for download on each product page.

  • PCR based learning labs generally include: DNA or a DNA extraction system, PCR primers, PCR master mix, and DNA ladder. Note that electrophoresis loading dye is typically included in the PCR master mix. 
  • Gel electrophoresis based learning labs typically include: prepared DNA samples in loading dye and DNA ladder.
  • P51 learning labs generally include all reagents and tubes necessary for performing the lab.
  • BioBits Learning Labs generally include all tubes and reagents necessary for performing the lab.

Most Learning Labs are shipped cold to prolong their shelf life. Once received, reagents should be kept cold for long term storage, but leaving regents at room temperature for a limited period of time is not a problem.

  • Gel electrophoresis-based learning labs are stable at room temperature for several weeks. For longer-term storage, they should be refrigerated or frozen.
  • Leaving PCR-based learning labs at room temperature for several days will have no effect on their performance. PCR-based Learning Labs use PCR Master Mix, which includes Taq polymerase, an enzyme that will degrade at room temperature over time, but the enzyme is stable at room temperature for up to several days. 
  • BioBits may show reduced performance if left at room temperature for 3-5 days days, but should still be functional for up to one week at ambient temperature.