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Petri dish

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Title: Petri dish  
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Subject: Laboratory glassware, Instruments used in medical laboratories, In vitro fertilisation, Vacuum dry box, Retort stand
Collection: German Inventions, Laboratory Glassware, Microbiology Equipment
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Petri dish

The bottom half of a glass Petri dish.

A Petri dish (sometimes spelled "Petrie dish" and alternatively known as a Petri plate or cell-culture dish), named after the German bacteriologist Julius Richard Petri,[1] is a shallow cylindrical glass or plastic lidded dish that biologists use to culture cells[2] – such as bacteria – or small mosses.[3]

Modern Petri dishes usually feature rings and/or slots on their lids and bases so that when stacked, they are less prone to sliding off one another. Multiple dishes can also be incorporated into one plastic container to create a "multi-well plate". While glass Petri dishes may be reused after sterilization (via an autoclave or one hour's dry-heating in a hot-air oven at 160 °C, for example), plastic Petri dishes are often disposed of after experiments where cultures might contaminate each other.


  • Microbiology 1
  • Other uses 2
  • Petri dishes in art 3
  • Notes and references 4


A Petri dish with bacterial colonies on an agar-based growth medium.

Petri dishes are often used to make agar plates for microbiology studies. The dish is partially filled with warm liquid containing agar and a mixture of specific ingredients that may include nutrients, blood, salts, carbohydrates, dyes, indicators, amino acids or antibiotics. Once the agar cools and solidifies, the dish is ready to be inoculated ("plated") with a microbe-laden sample. Virus or phage cultures require a two-stage inoculation: after the agar preparation, bacteria are grown in the dish to provide hosts for the viral inoculum.

Petri plates are incubated upside-down to lessen the risk of contamination from airborne particles settling on them and to prevent the accumulation of any water condensation that may otherwise disturb or compromise a culture.

Scientists have been growing cells in natural and synthetic environments to study phenotypes that are not expressed on [conventionally rigid substrates]. Growing cells either on or in Petri dishes can, however, be an expensive and labor-intensive undertaking.[4][5]

Other uses

Petri dishes are also used for eukaryotic cell culture in a liquid medium or on solid agar. Empty Petri dishes may be used to observe plant germination, the behavior of very small animals or for other day-to-day laboratory practices such as drying fluids in an oven and carrying or storing samples. Their transparency and flat profile also mean they are commonly used as temporary receptacles for viewing samples, especially liquids, under a low-power microscope.

Petri dishes in art

A San Diego beach scene drawn with an eight color palette of bacterial colonies expressing fluorescent proteins derived from GFP and the red-fluorescent coral protein dsRed.

Israeli photographer and video artist Michal Rovner uses Petri dishes in many of her exhibitions to project miniature images of groups of humans performing movements and dance.[6] Antoine Bridier-Nahmias deliberately grows mold in Petri dishes which often grows symmetrically and with somewhat attractive colors. His photos are on blog "Magical Contamination."

Notes and references

  1. ^ Petri dish in the American Heritage Dictionary.
  2. ^ Mosby's Dental Dictionary (2nd ed.). Elsevier. 2008. Retrieved 2010-02-11. 
  3. ^ Ralf Reski, "Development, genetics and molecular biology of mosses", Botanica Acta 111 (1998), pp. 1–15.
  4. ^ Gilbert, P.M. et al., Substrate elasticity regulates skeletal muscle stem cell self-renewal in culture, Science 329 (2010), pp. 1078–1081.
  5. ^ Chowdhury, F. et al., Soft substrates promote homogeneous self-renewal of embryonic stem cells via downregulating cell-matrix tractions, PLoS ONE 5, e15655 (2010).
  6. ^

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