An egg-scruciating lesson about incubators, and a few things you should know

When we launched our first Google Adwords campaign, one of our most successful keywords was: incubator. We received hundreds of hits and dozens of phone calls, but not a single sale!

Because all of the inquiries were for snake and chick egg incubators!

While we’ve learned a lot since then, and have refined our message to attract legitimate laboratory customers, we are constantly surprised how often people confuse one type of incubator for another.

It would take many posts to go into depth about the purpose and function of each type of laboratory incubator, here are a few important basic things to know and consider when starting your search.

A majority of the incubators we sell operate within a range that is appropriate for bacterial or microbial work. Usually from a few degrees above ambient (room temperature) to sixty-five or seventy degrees C. This makes them perfect for warming and thawing, as well as mimicking the natural environment where these organisms grow best.

These are pretty basic, and range in size from benchtop models, to refrigerator sized that can accommodate roller bottle apparatus for high-throughput work.

Controls can be analog, with dials to control temperature and over-temperature, or  microprocessor controlled that are easy to visualize and set.

Internal temperature is regulated either by the use of blower-fans or gravity convection. While fans do a better job spreading the heat and creating a more uniform temperature, they can produce a drying effect.

A nice, cosmetic feature, is the inclusion of a glass door. This allows for viewing without compromising the heat seal, but isn’t necessary for proper growth.

When culturing cells, an environment that most correctly matches in-vivo is needed. This requires the addition of a CO2 port (and gas) as well as a method for maintaining a set level of humidity and monitoring pH levels. There has been a lot of attention paid to the addition of copper as a means for microbial control, but this can be monitored with GLP and regular cleaning.

Some research laboratory applications require that media be vigorously agitated. A shaking incubator like the  Incushaker 10L or 10LR meets and exceeds most requirements for this work. If one already has the appropriate incubator, then a  simple platform orbital shaker will do. For CO2 incubators, this is the shaker to use.

When more extreme conditions are needed, there are incubators that can be refrigerated to as low as zero C, heated to as high as boiling (100C) or feature more robust controls over humidity. The  Binder KB series sports the widest temperature range of any of the incubators we offer.

Incubators with these features are more commonly needed for stress-testing, as in the food industry.

It goes without saying that the addition of a refrigerated compressor or shaking device will add considerably to the price.

When hotter temperatures are needed, this is no longer classified as an incubator,  but an oven.

Other general questions to ask when purchasing an incubator are:

1. Does it have internal power ports for operating shakers and other devices?

2. How many racks can be added to increase capacity?

3. What sort of air filtration system does it employ to reduce the risk of contamination?

The selection of an incubator involves many considerations. Give us a call with your questions. We’re here to help!