Temperature control for microscopy imaging : stage top chambers

Biological processes are very sensitive, and respond rapidly to temperature variation. Performing live-cell imaging implies  maintaining the cell’s temperature as long as image acquisition is required. Several temperature controllers are available on the market, all have advantages and caveats, and depending on your experimental needs they may meet your requirements. Microscope stage heater/cooler is one way to control or shift the temperature of a sample.

Introduction

Stage top chambers or incubators are an alternative to incubation boxes since they provide as well stable temperature together with humidity and gas control. They are smaller than incubation boxes and can fit into the microscope stage. Objectives are not enclosed inside the chamber.

How does a microscope stage top chamber work?

Like big incubation boxes, stage top incubators can provide an accurate control over several environmental parameters (gas, humidity and temperature). Different systems with different characterstics are available and temperature control in the stage top chamber can be achieved through different technologies: circulating water through water-jacket chambers, through a heated glass on the top of the sample.

Features

Big range and homogenous temperatures

From 3 to 60°C. Some models are able to cool below ambient temperature through air conditioning systems.

Control of addional parameters

Top stage incubation chambers allow to control the whole cell environment (humidity, CO2, O2, pH) as incubator boxes; therefore they are well-suited for mammalian cell time-lapse imaging.

Flexibility in type of specimen

Stage top chambers are compatible with different types of specimens: glass slides, Petri dishes, multiwell plates, microfluidic devices.

Relatively fast temperature shifts

Compared to big incubation boxes, they allow for faster temperature shifts in relative short time (several minutes)

Easy to use

They don’t require any particular training from the operators.

Drawbacks

Requires objective heating to achieve accuracy

When working with water or oil immersion objectives, heating/cooling stages should be coupled with objective collars to mitigate the heat sink established by the thermal bridge created between the sample and the objective by the oil/water.

Not ultra-fast temperature shifts
Ergonomy

These systems are custom-installed on specific stages and cannot be moved from scopes to scopes.

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