Centrifuges

Centrifugal force is the force that is applied to an object so that the object maintains a circular motion around the force that is being exerted. A centrifuge is a machine which makes a specific substance or object move in a circular motion at a high rate of speed. The centrifugal force that is generated will have the effect of increasing the force of gravity acting on the substance or object. Simply put, the operation of a washing machine in its spin cycle is a good example of centrifugal force in action. In this process, the drum spins quickly and the water is forced from the clothes and shoots out of the holes in the drum all because of the centrifugal force that is created by the spinning. The same basic principle is used at wastewater treatment plants to separate the water from the sludge.

Centrifugal force is also applied to separate various chemicals and biological substances from original mixtures and alloys. For instance, a centrifuge can be used to separate blood into its constituent parts. In the late 1800's, hand cranked centrifuges that quickly separated cream from milk were used. In such cases, centrifuges are mainly of two types, sucrose gradient centrifugation and differential centrifugation.

Centrifuges can have various speed settings and they come in various sizes which generally depend on how they are to be used. The largest known centrifuges are used to test and train astronauts for upcoming space flights. Centrifuges are also commonly used for highly specialized industrial and scientific purposes. Typically the degree of centrifugal force that is exerted determines the usage for it.

An example of centrifuges at work in the scientific world is the isotope of uranium which is used to make nuclear fission bombs is known as U-235. A specially made centrifuge is used to separate U-235 from a gas which consists of various uranium isotopes. This can be done since under the action of the centrifuge and the forces it creates, the tested substances settle in layers according to their molecular weight.

While using centrifuges, one must take care that counterweight is present to minimize the damage since the blades in a centrifuge rotate with a high degree of speed and could cause damage to the centrifuge itself.


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