Incubator 101: Is Your Science at Risk?
The Basics of Incubator Monitoring

Incubator Monitoring Parameters

Temperature

The temperature in the incubator significantly influences cell growth and metabolism as minor temperature variations can significantly affect biological functions. It is crucial to obtain precise measurements within an incubator to evaluate temperature stability across time and space.

CO2 and O2

CO2 is regulated in incubators to maintain optimal physiological conditions and prevent its accumulation during cellular respiration. CO2 presence affects O2 levels, which are crucial for various culture applications. Monitoring gas flow is necessary for ensuring stable conditions and when pressure differentials are needed for safety.

pH

Maintaining optimal pH is crucial for the viability and health of cultures, yet real-time and accurate monitoring is challenging. Mainly the calibration of pH probes – even depletion types ones – is not possible today. Therefore, pH is indirectly monitored and controlled through environmental parameters that influence it (through CO2 and O2 levels).

Humidity

Relative humidity compares the actual water vapor pressure in the air to the saturated water vapor pressure at the same temperature. Humidity may affect evaporation and condensation, which can influence the concentration of media constituents, leading to sample deterioration and impacting gas absorption rates. Problems like contamination and sensor inaccuracies can also arise from condensation.

Door openings

When an incubator door is opened, a mix of internal and ambient air occurs. The duration of the door being open determines that mix and prolongs the time needed for the incubator to restore to optimal conditions. Constant door openings can result in significant fluctuations, leading to prolonged instability.

Shaking

Shaking in an incubator is used to enhance aeration and mixing in cell culture flasks, which is vital for the even distribution of nutrients and gases across the culture medium. However, excessive or uneven shaking can induce mechanical stress on cells, negatively impacting their growth and viability. Insufficient shaking on the other hand may congeal them and compromise the health and uniformity of the cultures.

Dry Contact Alarms

Dry contact alarms are critical and an easy built-in solution for ensuring there are no active alarms on your equipment. They provide a fail-safe mechanism that triggers an alert when pre-established conditions are not met, such as deviations from set temperature, humidity, or CO2 levels. Dry contact alarms enable prompt intervention, minimizing the risk of loss and ensuring the reliability of experimental outcomes. Dry contacts can handle a variety of alarms, including power failures and other issues besides the internal conditions of a unit.

Recovery Times After Door Openings: Temperature and Gas Concentration

  • A seemingly harmless 10-second door opening can extend recovery time to over 30 minutes. 
  • The need for reliable third-party data enhances reproducibility, ensures accurate scientific outcomes, and improves lab SOPs while monitoring equipment health.

CO2 Overshoot

  • Measuring accurate CO2 levels when the incubator is injecting CO2, especially after a door opening, is crucial to sustain ideal conditions. 
  • Adjustments to the incubator can be done more precisely with a quick responding highly accurate independent sensor.

Built-in vs Independent Sensors

  • Relying on built-in sensors has a negative impact as the internal sensors are built-to-cost and may not be precise or accurate. 
  • Independent sensor data provides a real-time picture of what’s going on inside the incubator. Environmental monitoring systems provide the user with the ability to view and analyze the data, resulting in better overall lab procedures.

SafetyNet

SafetyNet is a team of monitoring experts who provide 24/7 live support. In addition to being on every alarm escalation protocol, they will assist you with system configuration and administration, troubleshooting, unlimited training, live phone calls, and they’ll act as an extension of your team.