GLOSSARY: Centrifugation

Centrifugation is a process that involves the use of the centrifugal force for the separation of mixtures, used in industry and in laboratory settings. More-dense components of the mixture migrate away from the axis of the centrifuge, while less-dense components of the mixture migrate towards the axis. Chemists and biologists may increase the effective gravitational force on a test tube so as to more rapidly and completely cause the precipitate ("pellet") to gather on the bottom of the tube. The remaining solution is properly called the "supernate" or "supernatant liquid". The supernatant liquid is then either quickly decanted from the tube without disturbing the precipitate, or withdrawn with a Pasteur pipette. The rate of centrifugation is specified by the acceleration applied to the sample, typically measured in revolutions per minute (RPM).

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