A vortex mixer, or vortexer, is a simple device used commonly in laboratories to mix small vials of liquid. It consists of an electric motor with the drive shaft oriented vertically and attached to a cupped rubber piece mounted slightly off-center. As the motor runs the rubber piece oscillates rapidly in a circular motion. When a test tube or other appropriate container is pressed into the rubber cup (or touched to its edge) the motion is transmitted to the liquid inside and a vortex is created. Most vortex mixers are designed with 2 or 4-plate formats, have variable speed settings ranging from 100 to 3,200 rpm, and can be set to run continuously, or to run only when downward pressure is applied to the rubber piece.
Vortex mixers are quite commonplace in bioscience laboratories. In cell culture and microbiology laboratories they may be used to suspend cells. In a biochemical or analytical laboratory they may be used to mix thereagents of an assay or to mix an experimental sample and a dilutant.
The vortex mixer was invented by the Kraft brothers (Jack A. Kraft and Harold D. Kraft) while working for Scientific Industries (a laboratory equipment manufacturer). A patent was filed by the Kraft brothers on April 6, 1959 and granted on October 30, 1962. Scientific Industries still makes a version of this original vortex mixer.