An ELISA plate reader is a piece of equipment capable of detecting and quantifying Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assays. ELISAs are immunoassays that utilise antibodies adsorbed on the bottom of the well of a microplate to bind and remove a specific antigen from the solution. The antibody-antigen complex is then bound to an enzyme that catalyses a reaction that usually changes the colour of the liquid in the wells of the plate and is detected by absorbance. The intensity of the colour or signal is proportional to the amount of bound antigen and can hence be used for the quantification antigens in solution. Fluorescence intensity, time-resolved fluorescence and luminescence assays are also used, though less common.
When talking about ELISA microplate readers, absorbance microplate readers (also called spectrophotometer plate readers) are commonly referred to. These are used for different applications in different fields including life science research, drug discovery and screening, biotechnology, synthetic biology, and food or water quality monitoring.
Compared to a standard cuvette-based spectrophotometer, an ELISA plate reader can typically measure a full 96-well plate. High-end instruments can measure 384- or even 1536-well plates.
What is an ELISA plate reader?
An ELISA reader requires an excitation light source, optics for the selection of the incoming wavelength, a detector, and a reference channel.
The sample on the plate is illuminated by light with a specific intensity. The total light intensity the probe is exposed to is assessed by a reference channel measured upfront. The detector is located on the opposite side of the microplate relative to the light source. It measures how much of the total light intensity is transmitted through the sample on the plate and at which wavelengths. Light that does not pass through to the detector is literally "absorbed" by the sample.
The measured amount of transmitted light can be typically used to calculate the concentration of an analyte by means of a standard curve and wells of unknown concentrations.
ELISA plate readers are available as stand-alone readers or as part of multi-mode microplate readers, when combined with other detection modes.
Do you want to use an ELISA microplate reader in your lab?
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What to consider when buying an ELISA reader?
If you are on the market for a new ELISA microplate reader, there are a few factors to consider as the performance of the reader can significantly affect the quality of your research data.
The capability to filter or select wavelengths is mandatory and dependents on the type of detectors: Photomultiplier Tubes (PMTs) or Charge Coupled Device (CCD) spectrometers.
PMT-based microplate readers require a monochromator for absorbance spectral scanning. This selects the desired wavelength range and measures it sequentially upon mechanical movement.
Spectrometer-based microplate readers acquire the whole range of the light transmitted through the probe. This way, spectra, single, or multiple discrete wavelengths can be acquired in a shorter amount of time. Unlike in monochromators, no mechanical scanning is required. For spectral acquisition, spectrometer-based plate readers are significantly faster than monochromator-based instruments.
Our single-mode and multi-mode readers are equipped with a UV-vis spectrometer for absorbance measurements. This captures a full-range spectrum from 220 to 1000 nm in less than a second/well.
Compatible microplate formats
Make sure your ELISA microplate reader of choice is capable of reading the microplate format you plan on using. ELISA assays are commonly measured in 96 well plates. If you require higher throughput and wish to use only few µL of sample to save precious reagents or time, 384 and 1536 well microplate formats can also be used.
Software for data reduction
Generally, the software that runs the microplate reader is a very underestimated part of the package. For some plate readers, the software only controls the measurement process and provides a raw data output. In other cases, it can also perform data analysis.
A comprehensive, easy-to-use and flexible software can make life easier, simplify detection and automatise data analysis.
The most useful calculation features include automatic blank subtraction and automatic calculation of concentrations based on standard curves.
On the BMG LABTECH software package, assays have a predefined quick-run protocol and dedicated analysis templates. Through these dedicated solutions, acquisition and analysis of a microplate are performed with a single mouse click.
Our ELISA microplate readers
ELISA assays can be performed on the multi-mode microplate readers PHERAstar FSX, CLARIOstar Plus, VANTAstar, and FLUOstar Omega, as well as on the absorbance-only SPECTROstar Omega and SPECTROstar Nano plate readers.
BMG LABTECH was the first company to employ a UV-vis spectrometer for absorbance measurements. Upon illumination of the probe on the plate by a high-power xenon flash lamp, our ultra-fast UV-visible spectrometer collects all wavelengths from 220 to 1000 nm in less than 1 second per well. This way your ELISA assays will no longer be limited by the type and number of filters you have at hand - all ELISA assays can easily be detected independently of their wavelength.
Application notes with BMG LABTECH microplate readers
The following application notes are examples of ELISA detection taken on BMG LABTECH microplate readers:
- AN 350: Fast and accurate detection of Alzheimer’s Disease targets with SimpleStep ELISA kits and SPECTROstar Nano
- AN 341: Highly sensitive ELISAs in 90 minutes: SimpleStep ELISA kits and the SPECTROstar Nano
- AN 272: Overview of ELISA assays and NADH/NADPH conversion detection
Why to choose a BMG LABTECH absorbance microplate reader?
BMG LABTECH is specialised in producing microplate readers only and brings more than 30 years of full expertise in microplate reading technology. This knowledge gets visible in the results that our instruments deliver - the only factor that counts in your lab! Our users can trust to obtain best results in sensitivity, speed and flexibility. Moreover, our single and multi-mode plate readers are developed to provide optimum performance for years. Our instruments are developed, produced and tested in Germany and are built to be extremely robust and reliable.
Buy only what you need
Due to their modularity, all our multimode plate readers can be equipped with different detection modes and cover a multitude of applications. Additional features can be upgraded. This gives you the chance to keep your options open even if you don’t use the full scope of your microplate reader right at the bat.
All-round service and support
We strive to provide you with the very best customer service and support. If you need customer support, we are only a phone call or email away. During business hours, you immediately speak live to a person who is happy to assist. There is no automated phone system or waiting in a queue. Our scientists, engineers and technicians are always there to help.
Multi-user software package
All our instruments come with a multi-user software package that can be installed on as many computers as users requires, without the need to purchase licenses. Software updates for our microplate readers are of no charge within the first 12 month after purchase.