The basic piece of laboratory equipment for many labs is the incubator. Cell culture, BOD determinations, hybridization, environmental control, plant culture – all of these applications require temperature control. Mammalian cell cultures also need the CO2 level controlled. BOD incubators, environmental chambers, and plant culture chambers all require refrigeration as well as heating. Humidity control can be added to environmental chambers. Diurnal incubators have lighting control for plant growth. Hybridization for DNA studies require accurate temperature control and the ability to ramp the temperatures at a user controlled rate.
Standard microbiology incubators hold temperatures at 5 – 10 degrees C above ambient up to 50 to 100 degrees C. Economy incubators have gravity convection(no fan) but for more temperature uniformity an air flow convection incubator(with a fan) would be appropriate. Water jacketed incubators provide more precise temperature control than air incubators. The heated lab incubator ranges in size from less than 1 cubic foot interior space to 40 cubic feet or more. Choice of a laboratory incubator depends on the temperature needed, the temperature control needed, the amount of samples which must be incubated, and the laboratory’s budget.
There are many manufacturers of incubators including Sanyo (now Panasonic), Caron, Binder, Thermo Scientific, Sheldon(Shellabs) and VWR among others.