Image: Incubator


Incubator, apparatus or specially constructed chamber for maintaining living organisms in an environment that encourages growth. Incubators maintain a constant temperature and, frequently, a constant humidity level.

In poultry raising

In poultry raising, incubators, or brooders, are used to keep eggs warm until they hatch and to warm young chicks immediately after hatching. Brooders are kept at about 38 C (about 100 F) for the first week after the eggs are laid, and thereafter the temperature is gradually lowered. In most modern electrically heated brooders, the temperature is kept constant by means of a thermostat, and moist, fresh air is circulated continuously through the device.

In bacteriology

In bacteriology, incubators are rectangular boxes usually kept at 19 to 30 C (66 to 86 F) for cultures of fungi and bacteria that do not cause disease, or at human-body temperature (37 C98.6 F) for the growth of disease-causing bacteria. Bacteriological incubators have double walls in which water heated to a constant temperature is circulated. Incubators have also been adapted to grow animal cells outside the animal`s body, a procedure called tissue culture. In addition to maintaining the cells at body temperature and optimal humidity, these incubators provide the necessary amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide for the cells` growth.

The term "incubator" is also applied

The term "incubator" is also applied to a device used to keep a prematurely born or unusually weak child warm. The child is enclosed in a well-ventilated chamber that is usually kept at a temperature of 31 to 32 C (88 to 90 F); the entering air is humidified and usually filtered. Human incubators, in use since 1880, have helped save the lives of babies born as much as 17 weeks prematurely. Incubators used in centers that specialize in care of infants born prematurely, called neonatal intensive care units, are equipped with electronic devices for monitoring the infants` temperature and the amount of oxygen in the infants` blood. These centers are attended by specially trained nurses and physicians.

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