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