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Selecting the right incubator for your lab is critical. Wrong decisions can be very costly and more importantly may not meet your needs. Whether you are a biology newbie or a cellular research guru, in this post, we will break down each type of incubator along with a side-by-side comparison.
Air-jacketed incubators keep the incubator warm by heating up the external air supply delivered to the inner chamber. The working principle of air-jacketed incubators requires a gas supply and a microprocessor. This constantly regulates the temperature of the air input based on feedback from the temperature sensor.
Water-jacketed incubators maintain temperatures using water-filled containers that wrap around the chamber surface. By circulating and heating water, the temperature within the inner chamber can be gently and uniformly regulated.
Direct Heat Incubators are self-explanatory. Instead of having a water jacket, direct heat incubators are usually equipped with a layer of hard-board insulation between the inner chamber and the heat coil.
💡 Tip: Proper sealing of incubator doors also plays a part in temperature uniformity and stability. Besides rubber magnet seals as a common practice, double-door design, secure lock, and gas-tight doors can all be additional measures.
💡 Tip: Placing other equipment in the incubator can potentially affect temperature uniformity and regulation. Most incubators are not designed for hosting anything other than cell culture containers. Overheating issues in incubators have been increasingly reported based on misuse.
Gravity is one way to control airflow within an incubator: Cool air condenses and falls while warm air rises within the chamber.
To precisely control the CO2 concentration within the chamber, an external air (mainly CO2) input is required. This led to the development of a forced-air incubator.
💡 Tip: HEPA filters are usually classified based on its Retention rate at the given most penetrating particle size. It is a common practice for biological incubators equipped with the HEPA filtration system to establish an ISO-5 cleanroom air quality. While some retailers offer HEPA filter kits in addition to the incubator, some incubators can come with a HEPA filter pre-installed.
In order to mimic in-vivo conditions, the CO2 tension within the chamber must be different from the atmosphere. In addition, Different cell lines require different optimum [CO2]. A previously regulated [CO2] is essential to sustain the PH of cell culture.
Two types of CO2 sensors:
Physiological in-vivo oxygen tension can range from 1% to 13%, while atmospheric oxygen tension fluctuates around 21%; thus, there is no doubt that specifically regulated [O2] is critical for optimizing incubation conditions. Dynamically modulating [O2] in incubators optimizes the incubation environment as well as imitates physiological stimuli on the cellular level. As an example, in-vitro ischemic events and hypoxia-induced autophagy.
Heating, Air Flow, and Air Supply construct the foundation of biological incubators. However, that is not enough to maintain a healthy cell culture. Factors like Contamination and Relative Humidity are relatively difficult to predict and regulate. Therefore, live cell culturing always requires a massive amount of manual input and financial cost.
In the upcoming volume, we will be talking about more attributes of contemporary incubators : Dimension, Water Reservoir, and unusually, Imaging systems.
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