DIY Gel Imaging Station


A. A photo was taken using this model of DIY Gel imaging station to prove the functionality of the station. This is the 1st photo taken!

B. This is a video showing how the Gel Imaging Station actually works.

Since its establishment, HKUST iGEM team has been working in small lab pretty far away from the centralized equipment complex. Every time when we want to document our gel or perform gel extraction, we have to carry our gels, walk through a corridor and up a floor to reach the commercial gel documentation system. Starting from this year though, we no longer have to suffer! We have built our own gel imaging system from affordable and easy to get-to-materials, and would like to share with the iGEM community how they make their own.

Materials for DIY Gel imaging Station

The DIY Gel imaging station mainly consists of six parts:

Parts of DIY Gel Imaging station

Parts of DIY Gel Imaging station

Parts of DIY Gel Imaging station
ItemSourceCost (HKD)
1: Case Local hard ware store: Pricerite$249
2: Camera (Nikon D3200) Local electronic store$3499
3: Computer with monitor for live viewing of GelLaboratory Laptop-
4: Green UV filter (PMMA) Taobao~$12
5: UV trans-illuminatorHKUST division of life science-
6: Color filters setebay~$124

In addition to the materials listed above, a stand and clamp is used to hold the camera in place. A heat block is used as a counter weight to keep the set up balanced. The inside of the case is wrapped with two layers of aluminium foil to insulate the UV radiation emitted from the UV trans-illuminator when it is being turned on.

A small hole is drilled at the back of the plastic case (not shown on picture above). This hole allows connection between the power cord and the UV trans-illuminator.

For live viewing of gel from computer, DigiCamControl, an open source software is used. This software allows the control (including auto focus and capturing picture) of the camera from the connected computer.

From Prototype to a Working Model


Before we built the DIY Gel imaging station, we built a prototype to prove the feasibility of a DIY gel imaging station. Here is how we build this prototype:

Parts of DIY Gel Imaging station
  1. We obtained a plastic bucket and drilled a 5 cm hole on the bottom of it.
  2. We placed a filter on top of the hole and put a camera on top of the filter.
  3. An electrophoresed agarose gel stained with Midori Green is placed on top of the UV trans-illuminator.
  4. The entire bucket, with the filter and camera are placed on top of the UV trans-illuminator, and a photo was taken.

Working Model

After we confirmed that we could take gel photo using easy-to-get materials, we proceeded to build a case especially for this purpose. With the case, the imaging station will be more durable. We choose plastic as the material for case. Plastic is inert to acid and base, resistant to rusting and is easy to maintain.

First image taken by the DIY gel imaging station


The Commercial Gel Visualization System is AlphaImager® HP System.

3D View of Animated DIY Gel Imaging Station

Our current working model 1.0 is good enough for daily in-out documentation purposes, but it is not so convenient for gel extraction – the space between the camera and the trans-illuminator is too narrow. We are about to build our 2.0 version and we want to introduce a drawer-like feature for the trans-illuminator. Our design is as below and we will build it pretty soon.