Capillary Air Thermal Cyclers

Cheung C. Yue ccy at po.CWRU.Edu
Thu Jul 22 20:10:51 EST 1993

In a previous article, jclewley at (Dr. J.P. Clewley) says:

>Does anyone have any experience of using the Corbett Research FTS-IS
>capillary thermal cycler, or the Idaho technology ATC? Are there
>particular contamination problems with the pipette tip sealing setup?
>Problems with leakage from the  capillaries (evaporation) during
>cycling? Apart from speed would you buy one in preference to a
>conevntional (0.5 ml tube) machine? Any other comments about these
>types of machine. They're superficially appealling because of their
>speed - particularly in a diagnostic virology lab.
>I don't have the address or fax or email # of Idaho Technology,
>or their UK distributer. Can anyone supply it?
>Jon Clewley, Central Public Health Laboratory, 61 Colindale Avenue,
>London, NW9 5HT UK
>jclewley at

I have a Corbett thermal cycler.

Things I like:
1.  No need to use oil.
2.  Small sample size (10-20 microliter) ideally suited for analytical use.
3.  Geometry virtually guarantees temperature uniformity - the round heat 
block with each capillary tube snugly fitted into the block practically 
equi-distant from the heating element on the outside and cooling fins on 
the inside.
4.  Rapid cycling times, better than most tube cyclers.

Things I do not like:
1.  Small sample size, therefore need to increase number of tubes of the same 
samples for production.
2.  Need to use automatic pipettor - it is a bear to try to use a hand-held 
pipettor to load the capillary tubes.  Hence added cost.
3.  Extra precaution in doing radioactive sample.  Since the capillary 
tubes have to be in contact with the radioactive sample in order to take up 
the sample, the tips of the tubes are contaminated, and have to be wiped 
clean before sealing and/or thermal cycling.
4.  Limited sample number - only 40.
5.  Cannot use microtiter technology.
6.  Hot start using PCR-Gems not possible.
7.  Temperature ramping may be a bit too fast.
8.  Not terribly flexible programming, and no computer interface capability
9.  Quality of tips can affect PCR.
10. Impossible to do in situ PCR.

These are some of my thoughts.  Overall, I found the equipment well made 
and performed up to expectation.  However, I will definitely be looking for 
a more conventional thermal cycler next round, particularly one that can do 
microtiter formats and microscope slides.  

I chose Corbett over Idaho because of the capillary tubes.  Idaho uses glass
capillary tubes.  I hate to have to crack a bunch of glass tubes to take out the
sample.  Corbett has a guillotine-like device which chops off the tips.  Last
I heard, Idaho was coming out with a machine that uses capillary pipets like

C Cho Yue
ccy at

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