PC plastic Erlenmeyer flasks are also used in microbiology for the preparation of microbial cultures. Erlenmeyer flasks used in cell culture are sterilized and may feature vented closures to enhance gas exchange during incubation and shaking. The use of minimal liquid volumes, typically no more than one fifth of the total flask volume, and baffles molded into the flask’s internal surface both serve to maximize gas transfer and promote chaotic mixing when the flasks are orbitally shaken. The oxygen transfer rate in Erlenmeyer flasks depends on the agitation speed, the liquid volume, and the shake-flask design. The shaking frequency has the most significant impact on oxygen transfer.
Oxygenation and mixing of liquid cultures further depend on rotation of the liquid “in-phase”, meaning the synchronous movement of the liquid with the shaker table. Under certain conditions the shaking process leads to a breakdown of liquid motion – called “out-of-phase phenomenon”. This phenomenon has been intensively characterized for shake flask bioreactors. Out-of-phase conditions are associated with a strong decrease in mixing performance, oxygen transfer, and power input. Main factor for out-of-phase operation is the viscosity of the culture medium, but also the vessel diameter, low filling levels and or a high number of baffles.