Better Temperature Control, Decontaminating Options and Interactive User Interface Help Meet Customer Needs

Laboratory incubators are used to grow and
maintain cell cultures and are available in a variety of sizes and types. The incubator market is divided into two main categories: the gassed incubators which are the CO2 incubators, and the non gassed or microbiological incubators. The CO2 incubators are mainly used for cell culture and provide control over factors such as temperature, CO2 for maintaining proper pH levels, and humidity, all of which affect cell growth. CO2 incubators are typically heated to 37°C and maintain 95% relative humidity and a CO2 level of 5 percent. Microbiological incubators are essentially temperature-controlled ovens that work within the biological range of 5ºC to 70ºC and are mostly used for growing and storing bacterial cultures. Most incubator units are water-jacketed, air-jacketed or use direct heat to maintain the temperature around the culture chamber.

Available from 1.4 (table-top) to 40 cubic feet (freezer-like), incubators generally last about 10 years and can be used in a wide variety of applications including cell culture, biochemical studies, hematological studies, pharmaceutical and food processing. Shaking incubators are often used for cell aeration and solubility studies. Refrigerated Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) incubators, with a temperature range of 20°C degrees to 45°C below ambient, are commonly used for applications such as insect and plant studies, fermentation studies and bacterial culturing.

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“The cell culture market today is thriving predominantly due to new applications in areas like stem cell research and hence there is more potential for growth in these products,” says Douglas Wernerspach, Global Product Manager, CO2 Incubation at Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Many manufacturers are working toward addressing some of the common challenges associated with culturing cells, the most important of which is reducing aerial contamination. A number of incubators now offer a high-temperature decontamination cycle that works much like a self-cleaning oven. “With the press of a button, the customer can heat-sterilize the incubator and get rid of any decontaminants or hazardous spills,” says Wernerspach. This option also eliminates the need to take apart individual components for autoclaving. “It’s convenient, safe, and ensures proper, uniform cleaning that can be recorded as a part of standard operating procedures.”

Besides units that can be activated when needed, there are also continuous contamination prevention units that work all the time and do not have to be initiated manually. One technology uses HEPA filtration to continuously cycle the air and remove airborne particulates and contaminants. The other technology that is gaining a lot of interest is the use of incubators that have interiors made of solid copper components. “Solid copper or 100% pure copper is naturally antimicrobial and for the first time the U.S. EPA has also recognized copper, a nonchemical, as an effective antimicrobial agent,” says Wernerspach. This has led to a number of companies developing copper-based products.

Incubators also come with options that can further increase user ease and convenience. Thermo Fisher has recently introduced a CO2 incubator with an integrated, interactive touch screen display built into the control panel. “It has all kinds of built-in user prompts and safety features so that you won’t mistakenly change settings and damage the cultures inside,” says Wernerspach. “It also has the ability to operate in many different languages. Individual users can customize the display to how they want to see it, which helps to minimize user error and training.” Additional options include data storage and communications packages that enable data logging to the computer, removable shelves and programmable alarms for temperature set points and duration.

At the end of the day what customers really care about is having a reliable unit in which to grow their cells. Hence, the lab environment, the application and the customer’s comfort level with the technology is what plays a big role in the selection of the equipment. “Ultimately you want to go with something that best meets your requirements,” says Wernerspach.

Tanuja Koppal, PhD, is a freelance science writer and consultant based in Randolph, N.J.

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The Peak Series laboratory incubators have been designed and engineered to perform processes ranging from simple drying to more complex and demanding heat treatment processes and long term stability testing of materials or components. They are available in six different chamber sizes, each with a maximum operating temperature of 80°C. They are also available in either a gravity or mechanical convection design. All units have an integral sealed glass door to facilitate product inspection and are designed for long term accuracy and reliability. A wide choice of control and programming and other optional features is available.

Dynalab Corp.
Stuart Incubators are supplied with a rocker that provides a gentle motion, ideal for low foaming agitation, blotting techniques, DNA extractions, staining and de-staining gels, etc. The blue non slip mat holds vessels in place. The tier system means more platforms can be added to increase the working space. Choice of gyratory action rocker SI70 or see-saw action rocker SI80. A choice of two tier heights is provided with each unit for maximum versatility. The rocking speed is variable and has electronic feed-back control to accurately maintain set speeds. The rocking action is automatically halted when the door is open for maximum user safety. The angle of the rocking platform can be adjusted allowing optimization of the rocking motion.

Jeio Tech
Lab Companion IB- G Series air jacketed natural convection incubators feature a temperature range of ambient +5 to + 70 C. A tangential fan inside the walls of the incubator circulates warm air around the chamber, creating exceptional temperature uniformity without creating air turbulence inside.A CLS control system assures maximum safety all the time while an auto tuning feature maximizes oven operation to changing external environment. A bias function easily calibrates the temperature difference between display (SV) and actual temperature (PV). Wait On /Wait Off feature allows for unattended startup and shutdown. A side cable port allows power cords to pass and connect to outside power source. Lab Tracer communication software and cables are included.

Thermo Scientific
Precision incubators feature advanced microprocessor controls and are available with mechanical or gravity convection for applications that require excellent temperature distribution or gentle sample heating between 5°C above ambient to 75°C. They have easy-to-clean, corrosion-resistant interiors and offer highly reliable operation and enhanced safety for both users and samples. Various sizes are available, ranging from entry-level models to high-performance equipment. All Thermo Scientific Precision incubator models feature reliable and proven temperature controllers, supported by a well-insulated chamber. These features ensure uniform conditions throughout the interior for superior sample protection. Additionally, selected models include internal electrical outlets for the operation of shakers, stirrers or rotators, a feature that helps streamline more complex processes.

New Brunswick Scientific
The Galaxy® line of advanced CO2 incubators features a unique fanless design and seamless onepiece chamber to eliminate potential breeding grounds for contaminants, and high-temperature disinfection (HTD) option to further minimize contamination risk. An innovative sealed inner glass door on 170L models allows viewing access while maintaining environmental stability and minimizing costly CO2 and N2 consumption. Perforated shelves provide rapid recovery after door opening. An advanced oxygen control system option in three control ranges enables specialized hypoxic or hyperoxic conditions to be maintained. Galaxy incubators are offered in three sizes, 0.5, 1.7 and 6.0L, and come in two model ranges: an R Series with advanced controller, automated 72-hour data logging with trend graph capability; and an economical S Series for standard cell culture applications.

The DHD AutoFlow NU-5510 CO2 incubator utilizes a digital, solid-state programmable microprocessor infrared CO2 sensor; dual temperature sensor probes; and various status alarms that make necessary corrections to the chamber environment supporting chamber uniformity and quicker recovery times. The interior chamber walls are lined with high tech R5 insulation for temperature stability and energy efficiency. The incubator utilizes a 99.99% HEPA filtration system ensuring a Class 100 air quality inside the work chamber. The interior chamber is maintained at a positive pressure similar to an ISO Class 5 Cleanroom. AutoFlow features a small footprint but offers a large amount of usable interior space (6.65 ft3). Dual sterilization cycles, 95°C humidified or 145°C dry, are useful for cell line changes or when working with hazardous agents.

The Sterisonic™ GxP, MCO-19AIC(UVH) cell culture incubator uses the first rapid H2O2 sterilization system, an under three hour decontamination process that is the fastest method available. The use of H2O2 sterilization in biological safety cabinets and barrier isolators is a popular alternative to ethylene oxide (EtO) as it is thought to be a safer, more efficient decontamination method. The documented two-hour in situ H2O2 sequence puts the fully sterilized Sterisonic™ GxP available and ready for use quicker than any other incubator. EtO criteria outlined in ANSI/AAMI/ISO 14937 may be used as a validation guideline. All interior components and CO2 sampling loop are sterilized in situ with no need for removal or separate autoclaving.

Thermo Scientific
Combining the intuitive iCAN™ touch-screen user interface for simplified operation with the proven ContraCon contamination control technology, HERAcell i CO2 incubators provide a reliable, easy-to-use system for valuable cell cultures. The exclusive ContraCon system uses a moist heat process to decontaminate the chamber overnight, without the need to remove components. The HERAcell i range is available with either non-corrosive electropolished stainless steel interiors or 100 percent pure copper antimicrobial surfaces to minimize contamination. Operational prompts, performance feedback and graphical displays are enabled by the iCAN door-mounted, touch-screen control, providing the information necessary to achieve optimal culture conditions while minimizing the risk of user error. Superior parameter recovery times are achieved via an efficient mechanical convection system, and quality in-chamber sensors allow sample humidity recovery to be obtained five times faster than ordinary chambers.