PourBoy® 4 Sterile Media Dispenser, incl. Pump-Tubing Set

PB4:  $967.57 - In Stock

Power Options

This new device is so good, you can actually get excited about pouring Petri dishes. We periodically ask labs for their "wish lists", and on more than one occasion, researchers have said, "A good, inexpensive, reliable sterile media dispenser." Most devices on the market are either expensive, unreliable peristaltic pumps, or expensive unreliable motor-driven, syringe-based pumps.

     At Tritech Research, we designed a system combining simple, yet elegant, foot pedal controlled electronic dispensing circuitry with an inexpensive, detachable, miniature, high-tech electromagnetic pump that is easy to sterilize to make the PourBoy 4.  It can still be sterilized with alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and hot water.  See our Extra Pump-Tubing set (PB4-PTS) product description for more details. The standard Single-speed model dispenses at a rate of approx. 3 mL / sec. The Variable Speed option allows for slower rates than this. For higher flow rates, we have added a High Speed pump option. This higher-capacity pump runs at about 12ml/sec, and it is available with a variable speed option as well.

Great new features on the PourBoy® 4 include:
  • easily user-calibrated to accurately deliver volumes from 0.1 to 999.0 mL
  • user-settable pause interval from 0.1 to 999 seconds between each dispensing operation
  • faster pumping speed: up to 400 ml / minute!
  • user memory to store common dispensing operations, i.e different Petri dish sizes
  • microprocessor-controlled accuracy, and a fully digital, wipe-to-clean membrane keypad

Note: The PourBoy® 4 pumps are designed to pump smooth liquids, like aqueous solutions, hot molten agar, and oils, but not particulate materials like grits, grains, pastes, etc.  For example, it is great for dispensing hot agar growth media into Petri dishes and dispensing sterile cell culture media, but not suitable for dispensing oatmeal or Drosohila food.  The PourBoy 4 is a new improved replacement for the PourBoy III.  It uses less expensive pumps yet they are less prone to jamming, and it has built-in temperature compensation for improved calibration accuracy over a wide range of media temperatures.  The PourBoy 4 is the preferred device for C. elegans labs that need to dispense NGM medium and pour thousands of Petri dishes per week. Here are two of several publications referencing the PB4:

Re-replication of a Centromere Induces Chromosomal Instability and Aneuploidy. Stacey L. Hanlon, Joachim J. Li. PLOS Genetics. April 22, 2015.

Integrated Genomics: A Discovery-Based Laboratory Course.Guy A. Caldwell, Shelli N. Williams, Kim A. Caldwell. 2006.

Feel free to contact us for your special dispensing needs, such as integration with computer-controlled multichannel dispensers.  If you can think of it, we can probably make it!

Approximate specifications of the PourBoy IV:

Height: 14cm (5.5")
Width: 15.5cm (6")
Depth: 20cm (8")
Weight: 1kg (2.2 lbs)
Pumping rate, full speed, Standard Pump, normal conditions: 3ml / sec
Pumping rate, full speed, High Speed Pump, normal conditions: 12ml / sec


Q: I am having media contamination problems when using my PourBoy. How can I sterilize the pump tubing set?
A: There is a very easy and effective way to sterilize the pump-tubing set - you can re-circulate hydrogen peroxide through it. The "drugstore grade" 2% hydrogen peroxide works fine for this. Get about 250 ml of 2-3% hydrogen peroxide and re-circulate it through the pump for 5 minutes at room temperature. While alcohol is pretty good at killing most bacteria, hydrogen peroxide is very effective at killing both bacteria and fungus, yet it is much more compatible with the internal components of the pump than bleach (which is not recommended). Autoclave 2 bottles of distilled water along with your media. Run one bottle of hot water through the PourBoy before you pour your media to preheat the tubing and pump and wash out / sterilize any contamination. Run the second bottle through the PourBoy *immediately* after you pour the last plate to wash out any media before it can gel in the system. You can also autoclave your tubing before use. Remove the tubing from the pump, wrap it in aluminum foil, and autoclave it thoroughly. Use the foil to make sure that nothing touches the outside of the input tube so that it remains sterile before it goes into the medium. Of course, it is also important to do negative controls when looking for the source of contamination. Hopefully, you already know that there is no contamination already present in the "sterilized" media or the Petri dishes. The next time that you pour a batch plates you could manually pour a few using a sterile pipette to make sure that the source of the contamination is not upstream from the PourBoy.
Here is our recommended practice for pouring plates:
1) Remove the tubing from the PourBoy's pump, and wrap it in aluminum foil.
2) When autoclaving your media, also autoclave the PourBoy's tubing and 2 bottles, each containing 1 liter of distilled water.
3) Optionally have 500ml of 2 or 3% hydrogen peroxide on hand. Ethanol or isopropanol is also acceptable, but generally less effective.
4) Put the input and output tubes back on the PB4 with care so as not to contaminate the parts of the input tube that will be in contact with your media.
5) Optionally pump some hydrogen peroxide through the system for 2-3 minutes. It can be recycled back into its bottle or discarded. it can also be filled into the system and paused so that the internal parts are being bathed.
6) Insert the input tube into the first bottle of hot distilled water and run at least 500 ml of hot water through the system, discarding it. In most cases, the hot water is enough to kill and / wash away any small amounts of contamination without the hydrogen peroxide step. The hot water is necessary if you are going to pump gel-based media (such as agar) because it will preheat the tubing and pump, preventing gelation.
7) Transfer the input tube from the first hot water bottle into your media, and pump media through until the water has been displaced.
8) Pour your plates. It you need to pause for more than 30 seconds, direct the output tube back into your media vessel and recirculate the media, by using an automatic mode pour setting, to keep the tubing hot and prevent gelation within the tubing and pump. Even 1 minute of stationary medium could cause an unpleasant gelling problem.
9) Immediately after pouring the last plate, transfer the input tube into the second bottle of hot water, and pump it through to remove any residue of media, which would otherwise gel in the system and/or be a source of nutrition for a contaminant. It is important to use distilled water, because, if allowed to dry out, the precipitated minerals from residual tap water could cause the pump to stick/jam.

Q: How precise and consistent is the PourBoy?
A: The PourBoy can deliver liquid volumes precisely from 0.1 mL to 999.0 mL. The precision is controlled by a microprocessor, which ensures consistency of aliquots. Precision using the standard pump is typically within 2%. Reproducibility can be affected by hydrostatic pressure - the difference in height between the input medium and the output dispensing tube. Do what you can to minimize changes in this height over the course of dispensing. This difference is more pronounced with the High Speed pump than the Standard pump.

Q: Do you have to hit the foot pedal for each dispensing operation?
A: The PourBoy has two dispensing modes, Manual and Automatic. In Manual Mode, the set volume is dispensed each time the foot pedal is pressed. In Automatic Mode, you can set the pause interval between deliveries of media, and press the foot-pedal once to start and once to stop the cycle.

Q: What are the differences between different speed pumps that have been offered with the PourBoy?
A: The currently available "Medium Speed" PourBoy pump dispenses media at ~350-400 ml per minute at full speed, and an included variable-speed option allows you to set slower speeds for dispensing small volumes into small vessels. Our previous "Standard Speed" pump delivered ~180-200 ml / min and our previous "High Speed" pump could dispense liquids at a rate of ~800ml/minute. You can check with us if you need one of these older pumps to see if we have any in stock. Both versions have a variable speed option. Without the variable speed option, the pump always runs at its maximum speed; the variable speed allows it to slow down to flow rates below maximum.

Q: What happens if the PourBoy sterile media dispenser ends up clogged?
A: We ALWAYS recommend that you purchase an extra of pump-tubing set (PB4-PTS) with your PourBoy sterile media dispenser in case you encounter any problems with the pump or tubing getting clogged. This way, you can quickly change out the pump-tubing set, continue working, and worry about cleaning it later.

Q: Does the PB4 Media Dispenser need to be used in a sterile culture hood (for pouring plates)?
A: It is always best to pour sterile media in the hood to reduce the chance that mold spores or bacteria or dust will fall into your media. We recommend avoiding contamination at all costs! Also, if your hood has laminar airflow, that will also help to evaporate any condensation that forms on the Petri dish lids and to cool and gel the plates more quickly.

Q: After I pour agar in the plates, how long should I leave them exposed to the air before I cover them with the lids?
A: To avoid contamination, it's best not to wait at all. Before pouring the plates, if you allow the media to cool (while stirring on a hot plate with a magnetic stirring bar) to about 45-50°C, then you can close the dishes immediately. The resulting condensation should evaporate after several hours. We recommend first forming a stack of plates, for example, 5 plates tall (or 10 plates if you have good balancing skills). Then, we suggest lifting the top 4 plates, plus the lid from the bottom plate and shooting the media into the bottom plate. Next, lower the stack, putting the lid back on the bottom plate, and lift the top 3 plates plus the lid from the second-to-the-bottom plate, and shoot media into that 2nd plate, etc. It is important not to move the plates around after you have poured them and before they fully gel, to avoid a messy surface. You'll get the hang of it in no time!

Q: Which parts of the PB4 unit are safe to autoclave?
A: The PourBoy 4's tubing can be autoclaved indefinitely. It is made from medical grade silicone rubber and is impervious to autoclaving. However, the actual pump is not and, while it might survive autoclaving, there is a good chance that this could cause some of the plastic parts to distort, which would make the pump stop working.

Q: What is a recommended practice for pouring plates?
A: We recommend holding the output tube in your hand and aiming it into the dishes at a 30-45 degree angle. If you find that the stream is not smooth enough or dripping at the end of each dispensing operation, you could insert a piece of smooth glass or plastic tubing at the end of the output tube to act as a nozzle. Do make sure that the nozzle is still being sterilized with the same procedure you use on the rest of the tubing.

Q: How can I make sure the tubing will stay submerged in the media instead of floating up to the top when using the PB4?
A: The vibration from the pump could cause the weight of the tubing outside the flask to pull on the tubing inside the flask. You can try taping the tube in place or shoving something (such as sterile aluminum foil autoclaved along with the media) against it at the neck of the flask to address this.

Q: Will I need a handle of some kind or is the tubing cool to the touch when dispensing molten agar?
A: The silicone rubber tubing provides some insulation, so you probably will not need a handle when touching it. You can wear gloves to provide an additional layer of insulation.

Q: How can I attach a sterile needle to the PB4 tubing?
A: To make a piercing adapter tip to inject large volumes, we suggest a large-bore needle / cannula with an O.D. of slightly over 1/8 inch so that it fits tightly inside the PB4's output tube. If it were for much smaller volumes than 40ml, you could use a 1cc syringe body with slip-tip output as an adapter for standard luer-lok / slip-tip needles that are available up to about 16 gauge.

Q: Which replacement parts would you recommend for the PB4 for extended use?
A: The PourBoy base unit and coil have no moving parts (except the push buttons) and are generally very robust. The item with the most variability and sensitivity is the pump cartridge because it has small springs and small apertures that can get clogged with gelled agar or particulates. For some people they last years, and for others they might last less than a year. We suggest keeping a spare pump on hand at all times so that you can change pumps and keep going in the event that the pump gets clogged. Over the years, a few people have also managed to damage the foot pedal or the plug / receptacle for it.

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