2011 CO2 Incubators Survey Results

Laboratory incubators have evolved steadily over the latter part of the twentieth century, and have remained an important piece of laboratory equipment. Find out the results of our lab incubators survey here!

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Laboratory incubators have evolved steadily over the latter part of the twentieth century, and have remained an important piece of laboratory equipment. Experts believe that in the future, the incubator market will derive most of its growth from the biotechnology industry. As medical knowledge and technology improves, and researchers become increasingly exacting, it is believed that growth chamber-type incubators will be required that have an even greater sensitivity in the control of temperature and relative humidity.

Another potential area of growth for incubators is within the field of genetic engineering, in which scientists manipulate the genetic materials in explants, sometimes combining DNA from discrete sources to create new organisms. Although genetic engineering is a controversial subject for many, this technology has already delivered tangible benefits, including the manufacture of insulin and other biologically essential proteins. Genetic engineering has also been shown to improve the nutritional content of fruits and vegetables and to increase the resistance of certain crops to disease. Genetic engineering relies heavily on the use of well-controlled and adjustable incubation, and it is within the field of biotechnology that some experts believe the greatest potential of the incubator can be found.

Cell culture incubators, also known as carbon dioxide (CO2) incubators, are by far the largest group in terms of sales and applications. CO2 incubators support cell culture work in basic research and in the biotechnology industry where CO2 is used to control the pH of cell culture media and to provide a more lifelike environment in which cells can grow. Diagnostics and pharmaceutical firms also use these incubators to grow test cells. Some manufacturers line the insides of incubators with copper to reduce bacterial growth; others employ HEPA filtration to prevent contaminants from entering. Incubators are usually kept free of contaminating bacteria through a combination of HEPA filtration and manual cleaning.

Respondents who are currently using a CO2 incubator are using the following types:

Water jacketed

17%

Air jacketed

17%

Thermistor-controlled CO2

15%

HEPA filtered

14%

Passively humidified

11%

Infrared-controlled CO2

7%

Actively humidified

5%

Auto-decontaminating

4%

Copper-lined

3%

O2 control

3%

Refrigeration option

2%

Data logging

1%

Other

1%

Incubators are heated, controlled-climate chambers used mainly to grow cells or microorganisms. Together with the culture medium, conditions inside incubators are meant to mimic a cell’s natural physiological conditions. Incubators come in two basic sizes. Benchtop models tend to be small (6 to 7 cubic feet in volume) and stackable. Anywhere from one to half a dozen lab workers might use a single unit. Reach-in floor-model incubators are larger (up to about 30 cubic feet) and might hold samples for up to several dozen workers or an entire department. Floor models are popular in hospitals, which require high-volume incubators to meet demand for patient testing and sample segregation. Pharmaceutical and biotech companies also use large incubators to support cell line development, clone selection and cell culture seeding for biomanufacturing, or to create cultures of test cells.

Benchtop incubators outsell reach-ins by about 20:1. Laboratory incubators are mainly used in the following industries: pharmaceutical, biotechnology, health care, and food and related products.

Respondents’ fields of work:

Biochemistry and biology

19%

Pharmaceutical

15%

Microbiology

13%

Environment

12%

Clinical and blood banking

12%

Chemical

8%

Food and related products

5%

Other

16%

Drying out is a serious issue that destroys cell cultures. Some units today employ steam generators to replenish humidity to close to 100 percent within the incubator. Steam pans—containers filled with water—are more common.

Thirteen percent of the respondents do not have high enough humidity without condensation and 25 percent don’t know.

Yes

61%

No

13%

Don’t know

25%

Contamination is the single most devastating occurrence in cultured cells. Contamination can delay critical diagnoses in hospitals, destroy tissues in fertility clinics, ruin basic research work on cells that may have taken months to develop, or delay a cell-based manufacturing project by months. Contamination arises from the lab environment, the researcher, or the medium being used.

Fourteen percent of the respondents have problems with contamination in their unit and 12 percent don’t know.

Yes

14%

No

74%

Don’t know

12%

Respondents’ annual incubator budgets for related equipment, parts, maintenance, service and repairs.

$0 to $1,000

37%

$1,000 to $2,500

14%

$2,500 to $5,000

18%

$5,000+

9%

Don’t know

22%

Each of the following components meet the application needs of the lab to ensure maximum performance from the incubator.

High-temperature disinfection

23%

Data logging

18%

Cooling options

14%

O2 control

13%

Infrared O2 control

13%

RH control

11%

Other

8%

A majority of the respondents expect to spend $5,000 - $10,000 for their next incubator purchase.

Less than $5,000

25%

$5,000 to $10,000

37%

$10,000 to $15,000

22%

$15,000 to $20,000

10%

$20,000 to $30,000

2%

$30,000+

5%

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—at the push of a button, users can heat-sterilize the incubator and get rid of any decontaminants or hazardous spills.

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.

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, lab professionals want an incubator that best meets their requirements.

Factors/features important in the buying process:

Reliability of results/durability of product

98%

Service and support

97%

Ease of use

95%

Low maintenance/operating costs

95%

Price

94%

Safety and health features

92%

Warranties

92%

Audible and visible temperature alarms

91%

Availability of supplies and accessories

89%

Minimal temperature control

89%

Fast recovery times

86%

Stable O2 control

81%

Small footprint

73%

Computer interface to log data

46%

Completed Surveys: 400

See the latest survey results here

Categories: Surveys

Published In

Laboratory Etiquette Magazine Issue Cover
Laboratory Etiquette

Published: May 9, 2011

Cover Story

Laboratory Etiquette

Many lab managers still remember them from their student days—a handful of hastily stapled printouts sternly titled “Laboratory etiquette—Acceptable standards of conduct.” Those were rules to live by, and the smallest violation landed a budding laboratory scientist in front of the ticked-off chief instructor.