What are Laboratory Pipettes?

One of the most commonly used devices in clinical activities and laboratories are laboratory pipettes. Laboratory pipettes can handle small amounts of liquids and can be used either to deliver liquids from one container to another or simply contain them.

Some industries also use multi channel pipettes as they are more efficient when transferring liquids into multiple wells simultaneously rather than transferring them one by one.

Single channel pipettes on the other hand are commonly used in pharmaceutical and chemical facilities as well as molecular biology workspaces. Laboratory pipettes have been around for close to two centuries now.

While it would seem that laboratory pipettes are recent inventions considering the sophistication of current models, they have actually been around for almost two centuries now.

The earliest record of pipettes was during the 18th century:

  • 18th century – French inventor and chemist Francois Descroizilles invented the acalimetre, a pipette precursor. He used it in his research studies on bleach and apple cider.
  • 1824 – French inventor Joseph-Louis Lussac added tweaks to Descroizilles’ acalimetre. He coined the term “pipette.”

From there, no other changes in the development of pipettes took place. However, a survey of 57 laboratories in 1957 found out that at least 40% of workplace infections were attributed to mouth pipetting.

In 1957, a radical development in pipettes took place. Heinrich Schnitger invented a piston-driven system pipette while doing his postdoc studies in the University of Marburg.

He integrated the basic functions of the mouth pipette along with an air buffer and piston driver. This helped define pipetting volume and prevented fluids from corroding the interiors of the device. The patent for his pipette was granted in 1961.

In 1972, Henry Lardy and Warren Gilson further developed the pipette by making it adjustable unlike Schnitger’s fixed volume model. Today’s modern pipette is considered the most direct ancestor of the Gilson pipette.

Laboratory pipette designs have been tweaked by various manufacturers over the years. More features have also been added to make it easier to use and more efficient.  Nowadays, there are single and multi channel pipettes and they are used automatically or manually using electronic controls.