A Petri dish (alternatively known as a Petri plate or cell-culture dish) is a shallow transparent lidded dish that biologists use to culture cells, such as bacteria, or small mosses. It is the most common type of culture plate.
The container is named after the German bacteriologist Julius Richard Petri.
Features and variants
Petri dishes were traditionally meant to be reusable and made of glass; often of heat-resistant borosilicate glass for proper sterilization at 120-160 °C.
Petri dishes are often covered with a shallow transparent lid, resembling a slighly wider version of the dish itself. The lids of glass dishes are usually loose-fitting. Plastic dishes may have close-fitting covers that retard drying of the contents. Alternatively, some glass or plastic dishes versions may have small holes around the rim, or ribs on the underside of the cover, to allow for ventilation of the air space over the culture and avoid water condensation that may be a problem that needs some attention.
Small Petri dishes may have a protruding base that can be secured on a microscope stage for direct examination
A multiwell plate is a single transparent container with an array of flat-bottomed cavities, each being essentially a small Petri dish. It makes it possible to inoculate and grow dozens or hundreds of independent cultures of dozens of samples at the same time. Besides being much cheaper and convenient than separate dishes, the multiwell plate is also more amenable to automated handling and inspection.
The culture medium is often an agar plate, a layer a few mm thick of agar or agarose gel containing whatever nutrients the organism requires (such as blood, salts, carbohydrates, amino acids) and other desired ingredients (such as dyes, indicators, and medicinal drugs). The agar and other ingredients are dissolved in warm water and poured into the dish and left to cool down. Once the medium solidifies, a sample of the organism is inoculated ("plated").
The dishes are then left undisturbed for hours or days while the organism grows, possibly in an incubator. They are usually covered, or placed upside-down, to lessen the risk of contamination from airborne spores.
Virus or phage cultures require that a population of bacteria be grown in the dish first, with then becomes the culture medium for the viral inoculum.
While Petri dishes are widespread in microbiological research, smaller dishes tend to be used for large-scale studies in which growing cells in Petri dishes can be relatively expensive and labor-intensive.
Contamination detection and mapping
For this application, the Petri dishes may be filled so that the culture medium protrudes slightly above the edges of the dish to make it easier to take samples on hard objects. Shallow Petri dishes prepared in this way are called Replicate Organism Detection And Counting (RODAC) plates and are available commercially.
Petri dishes are also used for cell cultivation of isolated cells from eukaryotic organisms, such as in immunodiffusion studies, on solid agar or in a liquid medium. IN the latter, the cells often grow as a layer attached to the bottom surface of the dish, below the culture medium.
Botany and agriculture
Petri dishes may be used to observe the early stages of plant germination, and to grow plants asexually from isolated cells.
Petri dishes may be convenient enclosures to study the behavior of insects and other small animals.
Due to their large open surface, Petri dishes are effective containers to evaporate solvents and dry out precipitates, either at room temperature or in ovens and desiccators.
Sample storage and display
Petri dishes also make convenient temporary storage for samples, especially liquid, granular, or powdered ones, and small objects such as insects or seeds. Their transparency and flat profile allows the contents to be inspected with the naked eye, magnifying glass, or low-power microscope without removing the lid.
In popular culture
The Petri dish is one of a small number of laboratory equipment items whose name entered popular culture. It is often used metaphorically, e. g. for a contained community that is being studied as if they were microorganisms in a biology experiment, or an environment where original ideas and enterprises may flourish.
- Microbial art
- Cell spreader
- Inoculation loop
- Roux culture bottle
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- Gary Singer (2018): "Sonder, in the City". Quote: As a native New Yorker, I tend to think of this city as a giant petri dish, in which some of the greatest breakthroughs, inventions, and audacious ideas have been nurtured to fruition. In Angela Dews (ed.) Still, in the City: Creating Peace of Mind in the Midst of Urban Chaos, page 40. ISBN 9781510732346
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- (2019): "Product BRB011: Petri Dish 200 mm, borosilicate". Rogo-Sampaic online catalog. Accessed on 2019-10-25.
- (2019): "Product BTX9302 Corning 100 x 25mm bio-agricultural Petri dishes". Fischer Scientific online catalog. Accessed on 2019-10-25.
- (2019): "Item 1219C98: Square Petri dish w/ grid". Thomas Scientific online catalog. Accessed on 2019-10-25.
- (2019): "Product 11708573: Gosselin Square Petri Dish". Fischer Scientific online catalog. Accessed on 2019-10-25.
- (2019): "Product BP94S01: Corning 100 x 15mm Polystyrene Petri Dishes". Fischer Scientific online catalog. Accessed on 2019-10-25.
- (2019): "Item 09-720-500: Fisherbrand disposable Petri dishes". Fischer Scientific online catalog. Accessed on 2019-10-25.
- (2019): "Item SB93102: Corning 100x15mm Petri dish with three vents". Fischer Scientific online catalog. Accessed on 2019-10-25.
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