Molecular matrix

The Molecular Matrix is a state-of-the-art suite of laboratories dedicated to the study and culture of marine organisms (viruses, bacteria, archaea, fungi and plankton), molecular ecology and biotechnology. It includes facilities for flow cytometry and the Single Cell Genomics facility, which features the world's fastest High-Speed Atomic Force Microscope.

Molecular Biology Facility and Microbiology

The recently refurbished Molecular Biology Facility is a one-stop laboratory for the analysis of nucleic acid from both natural and cultured communities, for synthetic biology and basic biochemical analysis. The laboratory is equipped with microcentrifuges, shakers, ovens, a DNA&RNA extraction robot, gel electrophoresis (agarose and acrylamide), vortexes, PCR machines and real-time PCR machines.

Alongside the Molecular Biology Facility is a newly refurbished Microbiology laboratory containing all the equipment required for the study and culturing of marine organisms (viruses, bacteria, archaea, fungi and plankton), including a light chamber, microbiological containment cabinets (class II ventilated hood), orbital shakers, centrifuges, a series of plate readers for automated assays using fluorescence and luminescence and a dark room for microscopy.

Contact: Dr Karen Tait


Algal Biodiscovery and Innovation Centre

The Algal Biotechnology and Innovation facilities serve as a creative incubator platform for the generation and realisation of biotechnology solutions for microalgae research and industry. It houses a suite of bespoke photobioreactors ranging from simple small-scale bubble column reactors to pilot-scale bioreactors. Our current suite of algal culturing and processing equipment includes:

  • Photobioreactors in the following quantities:
    • 12 x 3.5L
    • 15 x 10L
    • 1 x 60L
    • 9 x 250L
    • 5 x 500L
  • Industrial-scale centrifugal and electrochemical harvesting systems
  • Pilot-scale tangent flow filtration (TFF) harvesting systems

This equipment - and associated support facilities - provides a solid basis on which to undertake the bioengineering and scale-up aspects of projects, from upstream through to downstream processes. Researchers at PML recently developed the ALGEBRA guidelines (BBSRC NIBB Phyconet supported) for the environmental risk assessment of deploying GM microalgae at industrial scale, and have led some of the first large contained GM microalgae scale-up trials.


Single Cell Genomics Laboratory

PML’s state-of-the-art Single Cell Genomics (SCG) facility represents a significant advance in the molecular analysis of organisms from the environment. The bespoke facility has been designed to allow the direct isolation and characterisation of unicellular organisms and viruses from natural samples. Combining high performance and precision flow cytometry, microfluidics, liquid handling and molecular diagnostic machinery; the facility provides unprecedented genomic resolution to the field of oceanic microbial ecology. Unhindered by issues of non-culturability (a common problem with marine microbes), the SCG represents a paradigm shift in molecular biology and improves resolution of microbial or viral functional capacity and dynamics compared to metagenomic methods.

Technical specifications:

  • Clean room ISO 14644-1 ISO5 (Class 100)
  • BD Influx Flowcytometer
  • BioRad QX200 droplet digital PCR
  • Roche LightCycler480 real time PCR
  • High-Speed Atomic Force Microscope
  • Formulatrix Mantis Liquid handling
  • Hamilton MicroLab Starlet liquid handling
  • BMG LabTech CLARIOstar platereader

Atomic Force Microscope

A key feature of the SCG is the world’s fastest High-Speed Atomic Force Microscope (HS-AFM). The Mk4 system, developed by GW4+ partners at Bristol University and Bristol NanoDynamics, is capable of recording at up to 24 million pixels per second and can carry out over a years’ worth of conventional AFM imaging in just a few hours. Providing nanometre resolution for imaging millimetre sized areas or real-time videos of dynamic nano or micro scale structures or surface processes, the HS-AFM will revolutionise the study of environmental organisms.

Making use of newly-discovered physics, our contact mode high-speed atomic force microscope (HS-AFM) is the fastest in the world by several orders of magnitude. The HS-AFM moves the sample in a raster pattern and engages a sharp tip with the surface to map sample topography with nanometre lateral and sub-atomic height resolution over millimetre-sized areas.The tip can be thought of as a finger passing across a surface, able to map both the height of the surface and the local stiffness, thermal and electrical properties at the same time. The microscope doesn't require either the sample to be conductive or a vacuum to operate; indeed, it is able to image samples in gaseous and liquid environments.


Key contact

Professor Mike Allen

Microbial Biochemist - mija26/01/2022


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