In addition to looking into plant cell culture, I have also been thinking about making a laminar flow hood for use at The Edge. A laminar flow hood is an enclosed cabinet used in animal or plant cell and tissue culture where a sterile work environment is required. The ‘laminar flow’ part of the title refers to the smooth and low velocity flow of air within the cabinet.
To maintain a sterile working environment most laminar flow cabinets incorporate an industrial blower and HEPA filter to filter out most airborne contaminants. Laminar flow hoods can be constructed using a vertical or horizontal design with different airflow options.
While horizontal laminar flow hoods look easier to construct they offer no user protection. Vertical hoods are better as the the air can be expelled through a second exhaust filter.
The cost of a new laboratory laminar flow hood ranges from $2000 (basic mobile hood) to $5000 (large permanent hood). Since these costs are prohibitive, I am considering constructing one myself. If I can get component costings to come it at around $1000, I think it would really be worth it (and a great challenge).
I spent a good chunk of time yesterday trying to find DIY instructions for laminar flow hoods and getting a bit of an idea about cost and design strategies. The best instructions are from Fungifun (great construction pics) and Lotte and Thomas Orchids (great overall introduction and info – PDF Instructructions). The components are still a little expensive with blower and HEPA filter coming in at around $700 – 800. Despite this cost, it is still a lot cheaper than the laboratory equivalent. On the MAKE PROJECTS website there is also information about constructing a sterile box using a HEPA air purifier. While this may initially seem like a cheap option, the turbulent air flow produced by the purifier would most likely do more harm than good. As such, the construction of a ‘proper’ laminar flow cabinet seems to be the only really viable option.
For plant cell culture a horizontal laminar flow cabinet would be sufficient. However, since filtered air is expelled directly through the front of the cabinet, it offers no protection to the user and would not be good to use for other purposes, such as low risk microbiology. If I am going to construct a laminar flow hood for around $1000, I feel it should be able to be used for multiple purposes at The Edge. In any case more research must be done…