Middlesex Gases


Incubators and Insurance


What is an incubator? It’s that big refrigerator looking thing you always see in a lab right. It always has a Carbon Dioxide cylinder strapped next to it. Did you ever wonder what is in an incubator or how important the contents are to the customer?

The cell cultures stored in the incubator are the life blood of the customers’ research. They are invaluable in some cases as they can not be replicated. It is not a stretch to say that a single incubator could hold $250,000.00 worth of cells at any one time.

So now how important is the cylinder of Carbon Dioxide? If the cylinder runs out, the cells die. It is paramount that we, as gas suppliers, do everything we can to encourage the customers to install a back up system for their Carbon Dioxide.

Carbon Dioxide is delivered to our customers in a cylinder that commonly contains 50 pounds of liquid Carbon Dioxide. Because the liquid vaporizes to a pressure of approximately 838 psi, the regulator on the tank will read 838 psi as long as there is liquid in the tank.


It happens with far too much frequency that a customer with a single cylinder of CO2 feeding the incubator checks the pressure at the end of the day and leaves for the night, only to return in the morning to an incubator full of useless cell cultures.

Ideally, a switch-over manifold is the best choice. Sometimes it is financially out of the reach of the customer so a second recommendation should follow. To track the contents of the cylinder, the customer could mount the tank on a cylinder scale, add the tare weight that is stamped on the shoulder of the cylinder to the 50 pounds delivered and simply swap the cylinder out when the 50 pounds is depleted to a comfortable point.


I have had a recent experience where a frantic call from a customer started my day with a bang. “There is something wrong with the regulator on the CO2 tank! It stopped working and ran the incubator out of gas. The cells are gone!”

I responded in person within the hour but I already knew what I was going to find as I had recommended a back-up system for the CO2 twice before to the customer. I can tell you it is devastating to a customer to go through this. There is considerable research wasted. I was as gentle as possible in re-recommending a back up system for the CO2 before any new cell cultures were placed in the incubator. The customer purchased a back up system and a back up to the back up system.

In a twist that I couldn’t believe, when I was in my car placing the expedited order with my office I received another call from a research facility on the other side of Boston that had experienced the same catastrophic loss as the customer I was placing the order for. Again, within the hour I was visiting the second customer and the scenario was repeated. This customer had just the day before placed tens of thousands of dollars worth of cell cultures in the incubator that had arrived from Europe. It was a very sad day for people on both sides of the pond.

Sales were good that day, but the experience empowered me to be very diligent in my efforts to recommend CO2 back up systems for incubators.

Keep your eyes open for that single cylinder of CO2 feeding and incubator when you are in the lab and remember that a back-up system for this unit is imperative to preserving the cells.