CO2 incubators are equipments that provide optimum conditions for growth and sustained survival of microorganisms and other cells. The device finds widespread use in research organizations, pathological laboratories, dairy and other industries and is used routinely in molecular biology and tissue culture experiments. The CO2 incubators are equipped with HEPA filters to maintain a sterile environment and sensors for monitoring even the slightest fluctuations in temperature, humidity and oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. More sophisticated CO2 incubators may also provide refrigeration to maintain cell lines requiring incubation at lower temperatures.
The basic problems with a CO2 incubator include maintenance of a sterile atmosphere within the incubator, prevention of dehydration and desiccation of cells and controlling the loss of heat due to frequent opening and closing of the incubator door. The modern incubators use more sophisticated technologies to prevent these temperature fluctuations and are better suited for maintaining optimum growth conditions within the incubator.
Effective temperature management
There are basically two types of CO2 incubators: the water jacketed incubators and air jacketed incubators. The water jacketed incubators use water as a cooling or heating medium, whereas the air jacketed incubators use air. The water jacketed incubators lead to lesser temperature fluctuations as compared to air jacketed ones and are generally more preferred. The air jacketed incubators on the other hand, help the device to reach the optimal temperature within a very short time, minimizing the effects of temperature fluctuations.
Preventing contamination and desiccation
The metallic surfaces, copper lining and fixtures discourage the unwanted microbial growth within the incubator, both on the surfaces and in the hidden crevices. The more recent models of CO2 incubators use UV sterilization system or hydrogen peroxide system to maintain sterile conditions within the equipment. To prevent contamination, you can also increase the airflow through HEPA filters; however, this has a tendency to desiccate the cells which grow best at 95% relative humidity. Though, use of advanced humidity sensors may help in combating the problem to some extent, it remains a major cause of concern for manufacturers and researchers.
Alarm and backup system
The advanced technology in the latest models, couples the alarm and backup system with different sensors in a CO2 incubator, initiating the back-up system as soon as a parameter fluctuates out of range, thus ensuring that the appropriate environment is maintained at all times. These equipments are more suited for specific experiments such as tissue culture experiments that are carried out under more stringent conditions.
The HCO3 formed as a result of interaction between CO2 and water acts as a buffer for the cells in the medium. Some CO2 incubators may also use infrared detectors to check for fluctuations in the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Most of these incubators are quite efficient at maintaining the optimum CO2 concentration of around 5% that provides an optimum buffering system for the incubated cells.
The CO2 incubators are available in the market in both standard and customized finishes, designed to meet the specific requirements of different industries. They have a visually appealing and aesthetic design and provide a reliable environment for the growth of different cell lines.