Laboratory incubators are used to grow and maintain cell cultures and are available in a variety of sizes and types. They are divided into two main categories: gassed incubators (CO2 incubators) and non gassed or microbiological incubators. 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 temperaturecontrolled 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.
Incubators 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 in insect and plant studies, fermentation studies and bacterial culturing.
“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 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.
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. Incubators with interiors made of solid copper components are also gaining interest. “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, including touch screens, data storage, removable shelves and programmable alarms. 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.
• 6 cu. ft. model features infrared CO2 control, direct heat and high relative humidity
• Exterior is powder-coated with ISOCIDE antimicrobial paint to protect against contamination
• In the event of contamination, an overnight sanitization cycle can be activated
CytoGrow™ GLP Series
• Series includes 6.0 cu. ft and 12.0 cu. ft. models
• Features inCu safe™ copper enriched stainless steel interior surfaces to protect against cross contamination
• Optional SafeCell™ UV contamination control system minimizes decontamination interruptions
• Direct Heat and Air Jacket™ surrounds inner walls with natural convection airflow
SANYO North America
GALAXY® Direct Heat
• All models feature a fanless design, eliminating a possible source of contamination
• Employs six-sided, direct heating with gentle convection circulation of chamber atmosphere
• R-Series models are available in 48-liter and 170-liter capacities; S-Series models are available in 14-, 48- and 170-liter capacities
New Brunswick Scientific
Forma Series II 3110
• Features triple-wall cabinet construction for optimal temperature uniformity
• Includes a validatable in-chamber HEPA filtration system to maintain Class 100 air quality
• Features a CFC-free foam insulated outer door
• Extra options include available oxygen control, relative humidity monitoring and antimicrobial copper interiors
Thermo Fisher Scientific