- In this paper, we describe the construction of a simple yet powerful gel electrophoresis apparatus that can be used to perform size-selective separations of DNA fragments in virtually any laboratory. This system employs a microslab gel format with a novel gel casting technique that eliminates the need for delicate combs to define sample loading wells. The compact size of the microslab gel format allows rapid separations to be performed at low voltages using submicroliter sample volumes. Real time fluorescence detection of the migrating DNA fragments is accomplished using an inexpensive digital microscope that directly connects to any PC with a USB interface. The microscope is readily adaptable for this application by replacing its white light source with a blue light-emitting diode (LED) and adding an appropriate emission filter. Both polyacrylamide and agarose gels can be used as separation matrices. Separation performance was characterized using standard dsDNA ladders, and correct sizing of a 191 bp PCR product was achieved in 15 min. The low cost and simplicity of this system makes it ideally suited for use in a variety of laboratory and educational settings.