Beads from BioSpec

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The following are guidelines for choosing the correct beads for your application. For information regarding particular beads and catalog numbers, see the ordering tab.


When working with Bacteria use the 0.1mm diameter glass beads.
When working with Yeast/Fungi use the 0.5mm diameter glass beads.
When working with Most Tissue use the 1.0mm diameter glass beads or zirconia/silica beads.
When working with Skin or 'soft' plant material use a 2.0mm diameter zirconia beads.
When working with tough or fibrous tissue use the same sized beads (see above) but choose a more dense bead material. For example, researchers prefer 0.1mm zirconia-silica beads for disruption of spores or 2.3 mm chrome-steel beads for extraction of tough fibrous plant material like monocot leaves. Some users have had good results using the MiniBeadbeater in a 'dry grinding' process - either at ambient or at liquid nitrogen temperatures.  For example, a single seed can be pulverized into a fine powder in 30 seconds using one 6.3 mm diameter chrome steel bead in our 2 or 7 ml vials. Density:

Glass has a density of 2.5 g/cc (most commonly used bead media for 'Beadbeating')
Zirconia/Silica has a density of 3.7g/cc (50% more dense than glass - good for spores and most tissues)
Silicon Carbide (sharp particle, not a bead) has a density of 3.2 g/cc (May work faster on tough tissue samples because the particles have sharp cutting edges. Their utility is still under investigation, but see Brein's comments below)
Garnet (an iron-aluminum silicate, sharp particle) has a density of 4.1 g/cc.  Like SiC  particles, it may accelerate lysis of tough tissue due to its sharp edges.  However, garnet particles are easily fragmented during beadbeating. Separation of the final grinding media from the homogenate can be problematic.
Zirconia has a density of 5.5g/cc (100% more dense than glass - good for tough tissue).  Chemically inert and resistant to fragmentation.
Steel has a density of 7.9g/cc .  (Used mostly for grinding leaves and seeds).  Stainless steel beads are expensive but reusable.  Only 1-3 steel beads are added to the microvial.  Chrome steel beads are a recommended substitute for s.s. beads.  They are 10X cheaper - cheap enough to be use once and thrown away.  Thus, no cleaning or cross-contamination concerns.
Tungsten Carbide has a density of 14.9g/cc.  While very dense, this bead is generally not used for biopreps - it leaves prep dirty.Other uses for beads:

Quick and easy plating of yeast and bacteria. Add a few sterile 6.3mm diameter glass beads to the plate to evenly spread yeast and bacteria inoculums. No need to remove them afterward.
Increase the surface area for tissue culture growth by packing roller bottles, tubes or vials with 6.3 mm diameter glass beads. In this application, the beads should be packed tightly to prevent movement of the beads during rolling or shaking. And, when growing cells in non-agitade culture flasks, confluence is reached faster and cell density enhanced by adding a layer of 0.1 mm diameter beads (see Growth of Three Established Cell Lines on Glass Microcarriers by James Carani, et. al., Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Vol.25 p.1359-1372 (1983).
Create a bio-reactor by packing a column with glass beads and inoculate with select surface-adhering micro-organisms or cells.
Keep dialysis tubes vertical during dialysis by adding a few large beads before sealing.
Nanotechnology. Dry grinding of hard or friable particles to a sub-micron size. Perfect when working with small amounts (<0.5g) of precious material.
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