An incubator shaker is required equipment for all laboratories that are engaged in biomedical or biological research. Often also called shaking incubators or environmental shakers, they combine the functions of shakers and incubators into a single integrated unit.
These units have found uses in numerous applications in research in the fields of medicine, biology, pharmacy and environmental protection. There are a host of applications where incubator shakers are used including hybridization, germ culture, research of biochemical reactions, enzyme and cellular tissues. The most common application of an incubator shaker is for the growth of bacterial culture and other applications requiring both high temperature and oscillation frequency.
These environmental or incubating shakers, are often used for cell culturing, cell aeration and solubility studies. Other applications include microbiology, bacteriology and metabolism research. In addition to stable temperature conditions, they use an orbital agitation at variable speeds to affect the growth of cell cultures. Some of these units have features such as adjustable stroke lengths to accommodate various cells and applications. This provides greater flexibility in adjusting the speed and orbit to meet the requirements of specific applications.
Optimum biological growth requires precise control and uniform conditions. A good incubator shaker provides these functions with the use of digital controls and easy to read temperature and speed displays. A PC communications link that provides the ability to record temperature, speed and time measurement is useful in documentation and regulatory compliance, where applicable. Another desirable feature is outstanding temperature control and uniformity to insure adherence to laboratory specifications. ASTM E1292 is the specification for temperature uniformity.
Incubating shakers are designed to provide uniform controlled conditions. The latest models use microprocessors to help achieve this control. They are designed to accommodate different range of test tubes, flasks and other glassware. An incubator shaker can typically also be used with micro-plates and micro-tubes. The desired temperature is set and forced air circulation ensures uniform heating. Temperature can be monitored via digital display.
Some of the more advanced incubation shakers feature programming which enables multiple parameter changes, including temperature, speed, photosynthetic lights and UV light decontamination. These models provide are multiple programs, each on a large display for improved visibility throughout the laboratory. All of these programs are easily changed on a timed basis, making them well suited for heat inductions or temperature reductions to slow growth. This eliminates unnecessary trips back to the laboratory. It allows the researcher to program the incubator shaker system automatically to make changes in temperature, speed and other parameters, instead of coming in on weekends to change it.
Other incubating shaker systems are appropriate for bacterial cultures and enzyme reactions, such as Proteinase K digestion. This permits researchers to further simplify the pre-DNA extraction process by preparing the samples and then placing the tube units directly onto the DNA extraction system.
The instruments combination of oscillation and heating functions make for an instrument which is an essential piece of equipment in many types of research laboratory. This functional combination makes the incubator shaker an extremely versatile tool which is very useful for a wide variety of research applications, saving valuable bench top space by eliminating the need for separate heating and shaking instruments.