Incubator : Introduction, Principle, Types, Uses and Key notes


Introduction of Incubator

Incubator is an electrical device in which incubation process  is performed which conditions an enclosure to a predetermined temperature since it provides and maintains all artificial optimal conditions for growth of microbial culture as well as cell and tissue culture.

Principle and working of incubators

Incubators work on the  principle of thermo-electricity. It has a thermostat which maintains a constant temperature by creating a thermal gradient. When any conductor,an electrically-controlled switch used for switching an electrical power circuit  subjects to a thermal gradient, it generates voltage called as thermo-electric effect. As power is supplied to the circuit predetermined temperature (37˚C) is set in the incubator. This temperature is maintained by the compatibility operation of the temperature sensor, temperature controller and temperature contactor are major components. When the power off, current flows into the system thereby energizing the contactor that powers the bulbs which serves as heating elements to the system, the fan ensures Distribution of hot air in the entire system. When the temperature in the system gets to desirable i.e. 37˚C the digital temperature controller sends an electrical signal to contactor which de-energized thereby switching off the heaters temporarily. Also when temperature reduces beyond desire temperature .the contactor will be energized again thus switch on the system.

Types of incubators

Most common types of incubators are –

  1. BOD incubators
  2. Bacteriological incubators
  3. CO2 incubators

The main difference between these two types of incubators is due to  temperature. BOD stands for biological oxygen demand and it is the amount of dissolved oxygen needed by aerobic biological organisms to breakdown organic materials present in a given sample at certain temperature over a specific time period.

Bacteriological incubators

This type of incubators are used mainly in laboratory usually for the growth of bacteria. A constant temperature set according to requirement is possible because of having  a thermostat  that maintains it . Accurate temperature can be visible on thermometer fixed on incubators. Most of the incubators are programmable which do not need trial and error temperature setting. They only holds heating system which maintains the temperature for growth of bacteria. Due to absence of cooling system, these incubators are affected by temperature of surrounding environment.

BOD incubators  (Low Temperature Incubators)

These types of incubators are often called low temperature incubator used for the growth of fungi i.e.  yeast and mold as they require low temperature to grow. This types  incubators are  called BOD (Biological oxygen demand) incubators because in biological oxygen demand testing there is need of low temperature around 20-25˚C.  So, don’t confuse with term because purpose of BOD incubatorS is also same like bacteriological incubators.

CO2 incubators

Inside a CO2 incubators, also known as a gassed incubators, an atmosphere is created that is as natural as possible to develop cell and tissue cultures. This way of cultivating living organisms is called in vitro and is the main application for CO2 incubators.

The following parameters are crucial for cell cultivation:

  • CO2 level
  • Temperature
  • Humidity

Uses of incubators

Incubators use for the growth of microorganisms in many fields, including medical, pharmaceuticals, agricultural, environmental, food, and industrial microbiology, public health, basic research and education. Where as CO2 incubators  most frequently use in medical research and the pharmaceutical industry. However, they also provide sterile conditions for cultivation in other fields where cells must grow in a completely germ-free environment.

  • CO2 incubators for tissue engineered products
  • CO2 incubators for in vitro fertilization
  • CO2 incubators in diagnostics
  • CO2 for developing biosensors
  • CO2 incubators in cancer research

Key notes

  1. Calibration of incubators
    Calibration done by performing temperature monitoring by using data logger with sensor.
  2. From what point is an incubator ready for use? In total, the incubator goes through three steps during validation: and they are-
  • Installation Qualification
  • Operational Qualifications and
  • Performance Qualifications

Difference between BOD and Bacteriological incubators are as follows-

Incubator Differences


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