Archive for the ‘Incubator’ Category

Update: Microscope incubator

September 21, 2011

After putting the DIY microscope incubator I recently built through its paces it has come time to revise and improve (evolve?) it.  Aside from enlarging the chamber just a tad I have figured out how to more elegantly integrate the hair-dryer into the incubator.  There should be a significant reduction in waste heat now.

Ahhh yea. (Top view of the incubator)


How to build a ghetto micro-environmental chamber for inverted fluorescence microscopy.

September 8, 2011

This project is very easy, super cheap, and has a very specific application.


Our lab has been trying to figure out ways to cheaply set-up an environmental chamber for time lapse imaging of tissue cultures.  Environmental chambers are typically expensive or just a pain to make and so I threw this ghetto chamber together.  This chamber works for us because we use an inverted confocal microscope.  This make-shift chamber is opaque and will not work for any set-up where light passes through the bottom of a sample and out the top (in our case light passes up through the bottom and then is scattered back down).

The chamber requires an appropriate gas supply (our goal is to use air with 5% CO2) and some way to regulate the flow to the chamber.  We are having trouble locating a good gas supply so the chamber hasn’t been tested out yet.


What you will need

    • Equipment
      • drill
      • drill bit
    • Reagents and consumables
      • a pipette box lid that is larger than culture plates
      • barbed fitting with threaded end
      • tubing (runs from fitting to tank)
      • washer
      • nut


Required consumables.

Below is what the inside of the pipette box lid looks like.  This is also the orientation the lid should be in when it is drilled.

Pipette tip box lid (bottom view)

Drill a pilot hole (use a smaller bit than your final size and if needed increase from one size bit to the next until the final bore size is reached).  The pilot hole is important because pipette tip box lids are likely to crack when being drilled.

Pipette tip box lid with drilled hole

Now the chamber can be assembled.  Push the threaded end of the barbed fitting into the chamber.  Place a washer and then a nut onto the portion of the threaded barb that is on the inside of the chamber.  The figures below shows the finished chamber on the outside and inside.

Micro-environment chamber assembled.

Inside of the micro-environment chamber.

Naturally a longer tube than the one I have depicted above will need to be used to reach the air tank.  The short piece I have attached is there for display.

The DIY microscope incubator is complete!

August 17, 2011

I did it,  it is finished, and it works.  Now I can keep the brains warm as I shove photons of light through them!  Scroll to the bottom of the post for a gallery of images with details about various parts of the incubator project.

Finished incubator (left side)

Finished incubator (left side)


  • Hair-dryer
  • thermal controller
  • Silicone caulk
  • 2 1/4″ PVC fittings
  • 3/4″ PVC and fittings
  • PVC glue
  • Plastic tubing
  • Adjustable metal clamps (for the tubing)
  • 3mil plastic sheeting
  • duct tape (for anything attaching to the incubator)
  • masking tape (for anything which attaches to the microscope or table)
The Evolution

The Evolution

I always like looking at how a project evolves and becomes more refined and improved with each step.  The image shows the 3 physical versions of the incubator (a secret version 2.5 was made in CAD but never made since plexiglass is expensive).

The gallery of images below contains additional information about the incubator.

Incubator update, 071911.

July 19, 2011

The company I ordered a temperature controller from sent me the wrong product.  Now I am waiting an exchange by snail mail.  So to pass the time I made some updates to the incubator.

I decided that the cardboard set-up I had was too crude along the edges and so I switched the material to foam-core board (bought from the dollar tree store for $1 a sheet).  I was able to make much straighter and cleaner lines – which is important for preventing air from escaping.

Picture 1 – The chamber.

It is clear from the picture that the middle does not align tightly.  This is mainly because the 6″ supports I used on each side were sized for cardboard which was thicker than the foam-core board.  Nevertheless I decided to test out how well the rig heats up.

Picture 2 – The heating unit.

I visited the local Home Depot and after dealing with a cashier who had no idea what a hose was, I returned to the lab.  I opted to ghetto rig the hose to the hair-dryer (I’ll need a better solution for long term).

The results?  Very promising!  Despite the presence of small gaps in the front, bottom left, bottom right and rear of the chamber the entire inside heated up very quickly.  Running the hair-dryer on medium settings I got both sides of the chamber to reach around 40-50C each.

What is left to be done:

  • Make new supports for each side of the chamber.
  • Find a way to properly connect the hose to the hair-dryer.
  • Hook up the thermal controller once it arrives.
  • Block off the few gaps in the incubator.
  • Decide if a circulated fan is needed to keep the inside homogenous.

Microscope Incubator, In-progress

June 26, 2011

Actual incubators for microscopes cost a hefty-sum and so I have taken it upon myself to build my own incubator for an Olympus Fluoview inverted confocal microscope.

My first step is to build a cardboard enclosure for the stage and lenses (I am currently at this step).  The second step will be to add doors and refine the box (maybe use a better material).  The third step is to hook up a thermal controller ($30) and a hair-dryer to the box and test out how evenly the inside warms up.

I ran into some difficulties with the left side (user error), so depicted below is the right half of the incubator box.