Which Type of Chamber is Best for Your Lab?

Which Type of Chamber is Best for Your Lab?

From desiccators to glove boxes to incubators to environmental chambers, how do lab users decide which equipment they need? While some overlap in capabilities exists, each of these chambers offers distinct uses. Here’s an overview to ensure users get the functionality they must have—without buying more than they need:

Desiccators are the most basic of the four options. They are primarily used to store and dry moisture-sensitive and low-humidity samples. The desiccant placed within the canister absorbs water vapor from reactants that are hygroscopic. There are four types of desiccators:

  • Standard, which requires manual monitoring and operation. If the desiccant becomes saturated, it will need regeneration via heating or replacement.
  • Automatic features electric fans and heaters that regenerate the desiccant so manual monitoring is not necessary.
  • Gas purge provides a steady input of inert gas to reach relative humidity much quicker.
  • Vacuum employs a vacuum pump to remove air and moisture. For materials that can be damaged by air and need totally dry storage, the vacuum desiccator is the most secure of the four types.

Because desiccators can be the most economical, they are worth considering for storage and drying but cannot provide environmental control beyond this. They also do not deliver fast responses.

GloveBoxesGlove boxes enable the manipulation of materials within a sealed, transparent environment. Typically used for chemical synthesis, pharmaceutical applications, laser welding, and specialty chemicals, glove boxes are highly versatile. With their unique design, they prevent contact between users and potentially hazardous materials. The isolator chamber of the box contains slots with gloves that are sealed airtight. The glove slots allow users to handle items inside the chamber.

Substances that work well in the isolated environment of the glove box are radioactive isotopes, viruses, DNA, and toxic chemicals. In addition to offering containment, glove boxes can control environmental parameters such as temperature, moisture, oxygen, and more. Two types of glove boxes are:

  • Glove boxes for use with hazardous materials include HEPA and organic vapor filter safety valves to protect users from particulates and harmful vapors.
  • Glove boxes that provide a high-purity inert atmosphere.

Gloves are available in rubber, neoprene, or nitrile or may be treated for handling hazardous substances.

Cole-Parmer-StableTemp-Digital-IncubatorIncubators are likely the most common laboratory chamber. Incubators provide a controlled, contamination-free environment for growing cell and tissue cultures and bacterial cultures. The incubator maintains consistent temperature, humidity, oxygen, and carbon dioxide to protect samples. Microbiologists and molecular biologists rely on incubators for their experimental work.

Five primary types of incubators are available:

  • General-purpose incubators include mechanical (or forced) convection which feature a fan for strong air dispersion and uniformity; and gravity (or natural) convection for an environment with low airflow turbulence.
  • Carbon dioxide incubators create an optimal simulation of the natural cellular growth environment.
  • Refrigerated incubators are ideal for biological oxygen demand (BOD) and chemical oxygen demand (COD) determinations, cell and bacterial cultures, and other applications requiring a controlled environment below and above ambient temperatures.
  • Shaking incubators provide agitation and eliminate the need for additional equipment while also saving space. Use these for liquid cultures and washing blots.
  • BOD incubators or low-temperature incubators produce precise temperature control for biochemical oxygen demand applications.

Do not use incubators when working with hazardous substances.

Environmental chambers test the effects of environmental conditions on industrial materials and products, electronic components, and biological items. Conditions may include humidity, extreme temperatures, radiation, vibrations, salt spray, weather, ultraviolet light from the sun, and more.

These chambers help evaluate product quality, assess product reliability, and pinpoint manufacturing weaknesses. For example, a valve manufacturer may place valves inside a chamber with high humidity to determine how fast they will rust or corrode. Adjusting parameters within the chamber can reveal the degradation progress. Through this testing, manufacturers can learn the typical life span of their products.

Some environmental chambers are the best choice for chemical experiments, animal and plant growth tests, microbial growth tests, and more.

While not necessarily the most expensive of the four options, environmental chambers can be sophisticated and range from countertop models to room size.

Which is Best for Your Lab?                                                        

In determining which chamber is best, think in terms of:

  • What specific environment will be needed?
  • What level of reliability or precision is necessary?
  • Is safety an issue to consider?

The answers to these questions will likely reveal the best choice. For remaining questions, contact our technical support experts. Also view our selection of desiccators, glove boxes, incubators, and environmental chambers.