When you need an efficient heat source water baths for labs can be far more effective and safer than other methods such as an open flame. Water baths are commonly used to heat, warm, or materials or samples that cannot be warmed through other methods. For example, highly sensitive or flammable samples can be safely warmed in a water bath without damaging the sample or causing it to ignite. Water baths can be set to temperatures up to 99.9 °C making them a useful tool for simple warming or thawing frozen samples easily. Water baths also serve other valuable roles in the lab.
A waterbath incubator can make use of the consistent heat your water bath provides to assist in valuable tasks such as growing cell cultures or triggering specific chemical reactions that only occur in hot environments. The uniform and precise temperatures a water bath provides make these processes far easier and far more predictable.
Common Water Bath Uses
Deepening on your specific needs a water bath can provide an easy-to-use solution. Some of the most common uses for water baths include the following.
- The thawing of frozen samples.
- Heating or warming of materials.
- To safely warm flammable samples.
- Melt materials.
- Induce a chemical reaction that requires a certain temperature.
- Heat, shake and mix two different materials.
- The growth or incubation of cell cultures and other such samples.
Water baths come in several styles including easy-to-use non-circulated water baths, water baths that circulate liquids, and water baths with built-in shakers for shaking materials as they are heated. Many substances require careful heating to avoid damage and a water bath allows you to safely heat your samples without overheating them and damaging the samples. With a water bath, you can heat or thaw a material for as long or as brief as needed to safely achieve the desired results.
The Right Fluids
Distilled water is the most common substance used in a water bath. However, other substances can be used depending on need. Always check your water bath to see which fluids it is designed to use as the water bath may not be able to property heat, circulate, or measure the temperature of fluids it is not designed to be used with. In situations where fluids other than water are used various types of oil are the most common alternative. In general, the fluid you are using should have the proper viscosity for the temperatures you need so it can be properly circulated during heating. Also, the fluid you use should match the temperature you are setting your water bath at to prevent potential accidents.
As water baths make use of very hot liquids, safe operation is required to not only keep yourself safe but also prevent any damage to your samples or materials. Always handle your samples carefully when both inserting them and removing them from the bath. If you are using flammable materials, always handle them carefully. Be sure to keep your lab water bath away from flammable materials and make sure it is located on a sturdy and clean surface. Always allow your bath to properly cool before draining. Be sure to keep your bath drained and turned off when not in use. Regular upkeep helps your bath last longer, so once you are done using it clean it, dry it thoroughly, and regularly apply mild disinfectants to prevent bacteria growth.
Warming and thawing samples is a common task in labs both in the professional and educational sectors. Water baths provide an easy and safe way to not only warm and thaw materials but also incubate samples to achieve desired results and also handle flammable materials without fear of combustion.