Laboratory incubators provide a controlled, contaminant-free environment for safe, reliable work with cell and tissue cultures
What is a CO2 incubator
A CO2 incubator is laboratory equipment used to grow living cells and tissue. It provides a pH augmented environment that mimics conditions of the inside of the human body. CO2 incubators also control the temperature and relative humidity of cultivated tissue. The process of growing living tissue in CO2 incubators is known as in vitro.
The structure of CO2 incubators seals it from the atmosphere in the surrounding environment. The interior of the incubator is sterile and designed to prevent any contamination. Air that flows into the incubator is filtered and evenly distributed.
CO2 incubators are essential laboratory equipment in clinical, pharmaceutical, and life science research fields.
There are two main types of incubators. These are the direct heat and water jacket incubators. These two types of incubators are adapted for different purposes.
Direct heat incubator
Direct heat incubators have heating coils in the inner chambers of the incubators. Because the heating coils have direct contact with the incubators, temperature adjustment takes a shorter time. Sterilisation is via the dry-heat or moist-heat cycle and it is fast. Direct heat incubators are lighter and easy to set up.
Disadvantages of direct heat incubators include unevenly heating in chambers, excessive evaporation of liquid content of tissue, and sometimes the heating fan or coils can breed bacteria/fungi.
Water jacket incubator
This type of incubator adjusts temperature through water-filled jackets that uniformly surround chambers. As the temperature of water increases, the temperature of the inner chambers increases. Thermal buffers are placed in the jackets to preserve heat during a power outage.
Temperature adjustment in water jacket incubators is however slower and has an upper-temperature limit that makes sterilisation impossible. They are also heavy to carry around when filled.
Choosing the right incubator for your laboratory involves an assessment of your needs, cell types, and future usage. Here are the tips you need to choose the right incubator.
- Location of the incubator: The natural temperature of the location of the incubator affects the performance of the incubator. For cold areas, direct heat incubators are the best choice. Water jacket laboratory incubators are great for hot spots or locations with fluctuating temperatures. Water jacket incubators are also suitable for areas with vibrations (for example, close to a centrifuge), as they reduce vibrations in the incubator. The proposed location of your incubator determines the type of incubator to choose.
- Humidity control of incubator: Humidity is a key condition to be maintained in an incubator. Ideal humidity is necessary to prevent evaporation of water content in tissues. The relative humidity needed by living tissues is >90%. The water jacket incubator preserves humidity, while direct heat incubators may cause excessive evaporation of liquid in living tissues. Models of incubators also have different humidity control. Look out for incubators that have great humidity controls with a short response time.
- CO2 control: Excessive CO2 in incubators can cause hypoxia to the tissues. Incubators use the traditional thermal sensor or infrared sensor to control the levels of CO2. Your CO2 requirements for cultivated tissues should influence your incubator decision.
- Contamination control: Manufacturers have introduced ways to limit contamination of incubators. Internal air is constantly filtered and sterilised using the HEPA filter. Positive pressure is also incorporated into the incubators to reduce inward airflow from the surroundings of the incubator. Choose incubators with effective contamination control.
Careful consideration of all your parameters of choice is necessary to ensure that you choose the right incubator.