Incubators, autoclaves and bioreactors are three pieces of equipment used by microbiologists. Each machine performs a specialized function in the study of bacteria, viruses and other micro-organisms.
Incubators maintain optimal environmental conditions, making it easier for microbiologists to grow bacteria. Using an incubator, a microbiologist is able to control humidity, temperature and oxygen levels. A growth medium is placed inside the incubator to ensure the micro-organism has the nutrients it needs to proliferate.
Microbiologists must prevent cross-contamination of their samples. To do this, they sterilize instruments and supplies after using them. The autoclave exposes equipment to saturated steam at a high pressure, killing bacteria and other micro-organisms. Autoclaves are often used to sterilize glass and metal equipment, but they cannot be used to sterilize plastic because plastic melts at such high temperatures.
Bioreactors facilitate the growth of organisms used for biotechnology applications. This piece of equipment is often used to grow organisms used in the production of vaccines and medications. Like an incubator, a bioreactor allows the microbiologist to control growth conditions. The control panel of a bioreactor has settings for pH level, oxygen level, stir rate, induction time and nutrient delivery. A fermentation chamber is an example of a bioreactor. This type of chamber allows microbiologists to use large-scale fermentation to produce the organisms used in hormone and vaccine production.