​What is a 96-Well Plate?

​What is a 96-Well Plate?

Popular Uses for 96-Well Plates, Demystified  

Multiwell plates are gaining popularity outside of industry as biotechnology advances. For that reason, scientists who never planned on using high-throughput technology are now up against it.

It’s not as intimidating as you may have thought! Aside from the challenges they pose to tired eyes, multiwell plates can be really convenient and easy to use.

Why are multiwell plates becoming such a hot commodity? The feature that makes them so widely applicable is the multiwell design itself.

It’s easy to add more duplicates of a sample, or even to combine samples from multiple experiments and run them on one plate.

Sure, you’ll still have to repeat the process, but you save a significant amount of time and add validity to your results.

Understanding Design and Structure

96-well plates are a nice blend of convenient organization and duplication. A little bit of effort, and you will be comfortable thinking in terms of the plate in no time.

The trick is organizing experiments in advance. To do that, it helps to have the specifics figured out.

Most plates are polystyrene, which provides a crystal clear viewing situation where you can see the samples in their wells without hovering directly over them.

Polypropylene is also available as a more durable, matte option. Polypropylene is best for robotic handlers, and for reducing signal-to-noise in optical readings.

See our hard shell PCR plate blog for more details on this topic.

Some other terms to be familiar with are “treated” vs untreated or “virgin” plates, and high-binding vs. low- and medium-binding plates. We will discuss more about these in the next section.

Here are the basic design features of all 96-well plates:

  • They are organized into rows labeled A-F and columns numbered 1-12.
  • Wells range from 0.2ml to 2.2ml in volume.
  • They are rectangular with a rounded corner on the top left to help identify the first well.
  • The dimensions are 127.71 mm x 85.43mm with varying heights.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed looking at a plate, especially if it’s shiny. We know you’re not just bird brained, it’s actually difficult on the eyes!

Rather than tiptoe around it, it’s best to use a plate layout planner to organize your sample setup.

Labguru and a number of other resources offer templates for multiwell plate management, or you can always create your own template in a spreadsheet and print it.

Types of 96-Well Plates and their Purpose

As our hard shell PCR plate article discussed before, there are options such as deep well, clear vs. white plastic, and more. Let’s go over a few that we haven’t covered yet.

High-Binding vs. Low-Binding Plates

The binding strength indicates what range of protein sizes that the plate can bind in an assay.

High binding plates are hydrophobic and can bind proteins of various sizes and even will capture ones that have charged regions.

Low binding plates are meant to prevent molecules from binding the bottom of the plate and affecting optics or cell growth, which is important for PCR experiments and organoid culture.

ELISA tests have become popular because of the ease they offer duplicating samples and the straightforward visual nature of the results they provide. 

Many plates are designed specifically with this test in mind, although they may be used for other purposes.

Coated vs. Untreated Plates

Most plates come untreated, and the researcher may add collagen, Poly-D-Lysine, gelatin, or other substances that assist cell adhesion to them.

However, the term “coated plate” is usually meant to refer to a coating like this glass one that ensures that the plate is nonbinding.

Some sensitive cell types, such as neurons, will not grow on plates that do not have a biological coating. Many adherent types are fine with plasma treated surfaces.

Most immortalized cell lines do not need more than a simple, untreated plate to grow on.

Common Applications in Research

96-well plates are used across research subjects for ELISAS, Bradford assays, PCR, cell culture experiments, and more.

To demonstrate the wealth of options, consider this study that used a 3D printed gas delivery system to create a gradient across a plate to examine the oxygen response of A549 carcinoma cells.

Choosing the Right 96-Well Plate

There are a few different factors to keep in mind when choosing which plates to use.

To Summarize:

  • To prevent aggregation and interference, use low or medium binding.
  • To improve optical signals, use white instead of clear plastic.
  • To prevent breakage with handlers, use polycarbonate.
  • To reduce evaporative loss, use low profile plates.

Multiwell Plates for Every Laboratory

While there’s certainly a lot more to be learned about multiwell plates than we covered here today, at least we walked through the basics.

Stellar Scientific has an entire online catalog of microplates and accessories available to browse at your leisure.

Whether you’re looking for ELISA plates or plates with extra deep wells, we offer all of it. Don’t forget to grab yourself some plate seals while you’re there to keep samples from evaporating.

As always, if you need help or have a question about a product, visit the contact us page for the phone number and available hours, or use our online chat support.



  1. Auld DS Ph.D., Coassin PA B.S., Coussens NP Ph.D., et al. Microplate Selection and Recommended Practices in High-throughput Screening and Quantitative Biology. 2020 Jun 1. In: Markossian S, Grossman A, Arkin M, et al., editors. Assay Guidance Manual [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): Eli Lilly & Company and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences; 2004-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK558077/
  2. Szmelter A, Jacob J, Eddington DT. 96-Well Oxygen Control Using a 3D-Printed Device. Anal Chem. 2021 Feb 2;93(4):2570-2577. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.0c04627. Epub 2021 Jan 18. PMID: 33461290; PMCID: PMC8903034.