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CO2 Incubators

How Carbon Dioxide Incubators Work & How Leasing One Benefits Laboratories

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CO2 Incubator instrumentation

Testing biological cells out of their natural environment is a vital part of medical, environmental, and pharmaceutical research.

General lab equipment

While testing, the cells are in a different environment than their normal one and begin to degrade or change. Carbon dioxide incubators, also referred to as gassed incubators and cell culture incubators, have been developed to allow for cell cultures and tissue cultures to grow in conditions that simulate the cell’s natural environment.

The in-vitro cultivation of living organisms offers sterile conditions and allows the tester to control many different environmental conditions. CO2 incubators are used to maintain, expand, or culture cells samples over a period of time ranging from hours to weeks.

These incubators are kept at a constant temperature and humidity, while the amount of oxygen and CO2 that are present remains consistent thanks to CO2 sensors (either a thermal conductivity or IR sensor) that monitor the levels of carbon dioxide inside the incubator. Furthermore, optional parts can be used, such as in-chamber HEPA filtration system. The HEPA filter provides ISO-5 cleanroom air quality in the chamber within 5 minutes after every door opening.

Cell culture incubators attempt to recreate conditions that are identical to the cell’s natural environment. They offer control over temperature, humidity, and hypoxic condition. Hypoxia is a medical condition where the body does not have a lot of oxygen in it. For incubators, the amount of oxygen that is allowed in it is referred to as the hypoxic conditions.

In addition to their environmental controls, they also provide germ-free conditions for cell growth. This is done through the use of rust-resistant, non-corrosive materials lining the internal structure of the incubator. Stainless steel is the most common material used and is considered the industry standard.

The temperature range of an incubator generally falls between 4 to 50°C. Maintaining a constant temperature is important for cell culturing because volatility can be detrimental to cellular health, which would ultimately skew the results of the experimental assay.

Water jackets and electric coils are the two main techniques used to keep the temperature consistent inside the incubator. Proper humidification is also vital to ensure that the cell cultures do not become unusable by drying out.

Relative humidity within the incubator chamber is normally kept between 95% to 98%. This is achieved either by the use of an atomizer system or by a water reservoir. CO2 and O2 concentrations can alter a cell’s development and need to be controlled to ensure that the cells grow correctly. The whole incubator should provide a totally homogenous environment that promotes cell growth.

Cell Culture Incubator Instrumentation, Techniques, & Price

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Though the basics of CO2 incubators are fairly similar across makes and models, there is variation in the specific techniques of devices that are used. All incubators have housings, insulation, interior chambers, temperature control units, humidity control units, and gas concentration units. Temperature control and which material is used for the chamber can vary across model types depending on what is needed.

Furthermore, many models available today feature an intuitive touch screen interface, providing you with a simple way to program your device and monitor alarms, airflow, and temperature settings.

Stainless Steel Chamber

Part of maintaining an environment that encourages cell growth relies on ensuring that there are no germs or other contaminants that develop inside the incubator.

The most common solution to this problem is to use stainless steel, a non-corrosive metal. The interior is smooth and therefore does not have any of the sharp corners, welds, or seams where bacteria normally like to collect.

Stainless steel is also non-porous, making decontamination a simpler process.

Copper Chamber

Though not as popular as stainless steel, copper is also used as a material for the container. Copper and its alloys have inherent antimicrobial properties which are not fully understood.

However, it has been verified that when copper interacts with proteins or other microbial materials it destroys them.

Specifically, brass, a copper alloy, has been observed releasing copper ions that killed fecal bacteria.

Water-Jacketed Temperature Control

Maintaining an environment with a steady temperature is vital to ensuring that cell culturing proceeds as intended. Fluctuations could damage the cells making them entirely useless. Water-jacket insulation controls the temperature in the incubator by circulating water through the walls of the chamber.

Water is able to retain heat longer than air, so having the entire container surrounded by heated water helps to insulate the incubation chamber. This results in the internal temperature being able to withstand fluctuations of temperature in the surrounding environment. Water-jacketed incubators can even maintain their temperature in the event of a power outage.

Air-Jacketed Temperature Control

Also referred to as forced air CO2 incubators, this is a thermal insulation technique similar to water-jacketed incubators.

The interior chamber of an air-jacketed incubator has an additional wall surrounding it. In between those two walls, a heated current of air is circulated, providing thermal insulation.

Air can be heated much faster than water which makes the setup process easier. Additionally, the air that is circulated can be heated to the point where it is sterilized.

Direct Heat Temperature Control

Water-jacketed incubators are useful, but due to the added weight of the water, they can be heavy.

Additionally, the water needs to be kept clean from contaminants like algae. Direct heat offers an efficient and lightweight alternative.

With electric coils that are on every surface of the interior chamber, direct heat incubators use the radiated heat to control the temperature. A large advantage of direct heat incubators is their ease of use and setup.

Sterilization Cycle

Incubator sterilization cycles involve subjecting the unit to a number of phases, typically comprising a heating phase, sterilizing phase, and a cooldown phase. After the cycle has been completed, the incubator returns to its set temperature.

Three of the more common methods of incubator sterilization that manufacturers provide include dry heat sterilization, moist heat sterilization, and UV sterilization.

Dry Heat Sterilization:

This method sterilizes the incubator by heating the unit to 160-180°C for several hours. High temperature dry heat causes cell death through protein denaturation, nucleic acid destruction, and desiccation.

High heat dry sterilization will kill bacteria in the chamber that may be located in hard to reach crevice, such as the undersides of shelving units and within the shelf mounting hardware. In fact, it can serve as a substitute for having to remove all your shelving to autoclave it.

Incubators that use dry-heat sterilization are akin to an oven with a self-cleaning cycle. Both are designed to handle much higher heat loads than typical operating conditions without experiencing damage or presenting hazards.

Moist Heat Sterilization:

This method of sterilization is used when an incubator cannot withstand exposure to the high temperatures of dry heat sterilization.

A moist heat decontamination cycle performs sterilization by combining a high temperature (lower than dry heat) with steam pressure. Moist heat also causes cell death through protein denaturation. This method is considered less effective than dry heat sterilization or autoclaving.

UV Sterilization:

UV sterilization generates an antimicrobial effect by the damage it causes to a microorganism’s DNA when aromatic nucleotides absorb high energy photons. In other words, UV light can break down certain chemical bonds and scramble the structure of DNA, RNA, or proteins. This can make UV sterilization an effective solution to reduce contamination in an incubator chamber.

The Advanced Biological Research System Aboard the ISS

Aboard the International Space Station (ISS) there is a whole lab that is devoted to biological studies in microgravity conditions. The unique environment that ISS is in has opened up whole new areas of study in the field of biology.

The Advanced Biological Research System, a single locker system providing two growth chambers, grew the first tree to ever be grown in space. The BioLab Experiment Laboratory observes microgravity and space radiation’s effect on microorganisms and cells.

Due to space’s unique characteristics, maintaining good cell cultures can be a challenge. Since cell cultures are vital to the biological research lab aboard the ISS, they have many incubators that serve a variety of purposes.

We Offer Gassed Incubator Leases to Fit Every Need

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Founder-Friendly Leases

Our lease agreements are founder-friendly and flexible, helping you preserve working capital, strengthen the cash flow of your business, and keep business credit lines open for expansions, staffing, and other crucial operational expenses and business development opportunities.

2-5 Year Lease Lengths

Leases range from 2 to 5 years. Length will depend on several factors, including how long you want to use the equipment, equipment type, and your company’s financial position. These are standard factors leasing companies consider and help us tailor a lease agreement to fit your needs.

Your Choice of Manufacturer

We don’t carry an inventory. This means you’re not limited to a specific set of manufacturers. Instead, you can pick the equipment that aligns with your business goals and preferences. We’ll work with the manufacturer of your choice to get the equipment in your facility as quickly as possible.

Maintenance & Repair Coverage

Bundle preventive maintenance and repair coverage with your lease agreement. You can spread those payments over time. Easily maintain your equipment, minimize the chances something will break down, repair instrumentation quickly, and simplify your payment processes.

End-of-Lease Options

At the end of your lease, you have multiple options. You can either renew the lease at a significantly lower price, purchase the machine outright based on the fair market value of the original pricing, or call it a day and we’ll come the pick up the equipment for you free of charge.

No Loan-Like Terms

Our leases do not include loan-like terms, which can be restrictive or harmful in certain situations. We do not require debt covenants, IP pledges, collateral,  or equity participation. Our goal is to maximize your flexibility. When you lease with us, you’re collaborating with a true business partner.

In-House Underwriting Process

Our underwriting is done in-house. You can expect quicker turnaround, allowing you respond to your equipment needs as they arise. We require less documentation than traditional lenders and financiers and can get the equipment you need in operation more quickly.