Phase-change incubator

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The phase-change incubator is a low-cost, low-maintenance incubator to help test for microorganisms in water supplies. It uses small balls containing a chemical compound that, when heated and then kept insulated, will stay at 37°C (approx. 99°F) for 24 hours.

This allows cultures to be tested without the need for a laboratory or an expensive portable incubator. Thus it is particularly useful for poor or remote communities.

The phase-change incubator was developed in the late 1990s by Amy Smith, when she was a graduate student at MIT. Smith has also started a non-profit organization called A Drop in the Bucket to distribute the incubators and train people to use them for testing water quality.

Embrace, an organization that came out of Stanford University, is applying a similar concept to design low-cost incubators for premature and low birth weight babies in developing countries.

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