Chilly and Billy’s ULTimate guide to ultra-cold storage solutions

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Chilly and Billy’s ULTimate guide to ultra-cold storage solutions

December has brought our two favourite characters back to the mainland. Chilly and Billy are part of the Withnell Sensors family and are keen to continue broadening their expertise in temperature and humidity.

Their journeys through Antarctica, the fifth largest continent and site of the south pole, has not only caused their evolutionary resistance to ultra-cold temperatures but has also inspired their knowledge expansion into the world of cold temperatures and other essential applications of ultra-cold, freezing, thawing, storing and much more.

Antarctica is an ice-covered landmass known for its iceberg flanked passageways. It is virtually inhabitable, except for rich wildlife including many penguins!

Ultra-cold storage solutions including ULT freezers, chambers and rooms can range in temperatures as low as -800 C, very much like the temperatures in the South Pole. Antarctica is a vital continent that keeps other areas of Earth habitable. Its ice deflects some of the sun’s rays to keep temperatures liveable, this is why even slight melting of the ice sheets can raise global sea levels and temperatures.

Cold temperatures in storage solutions are reminiscent of Antarctica, as they are also vital for preserving life. Before we hear from Chilly and Billy, let’s delve into why cold storage solutions are so valuable to the pharmaceutical and life sciences sector.

Cold storage solutions maintain the cold chain

Logistically, the cold chain would be unable to deliver safe, effective, and quality medicines and therapeutics to the wider public if it wasn’t for cold storage solutions being embedded at key stages of the manufacturing, supply and distribution network.

‘’Hold on, me and Billy know exactly why cold storage solutions are vital!’’
‘’Yeah, ultra-cold storage solutions are essential for laboratories and healthcare’s settings because they preserve samples, vaccines and other biological materials’’

In order to maintain the stability and integrity of cells, tissues, biomolecules and much more, sample preservation must involve ultra-low temperatures. These temperatures help to prevent the degradation of acids, proteins and many molecules. By maintaining viability of assays and reagents using climate-controlled storage, researchers and scientists can reduce the risk of contamination and wastage of perished goods.

From here, samples and other biological materials can be kept until they are required for use. Whether it’s reagents being stored until they’re ready to be formulated into a therapeutic or vital samples which should be stored in a biobank for rare emergencies, cold storage is an essential requirements.

Types of cold storage solutions and choosing the right one

There are many types of cold storage solutions ranging from freezers, fridges and chambers. Depending on the application, a cold storage solution will vary. ULT freezers for example are a vital component of a biorepository or pharmaceutical lab, whereas cooled incubators and/or fridges are an everyday requirement of R&D labs and healthcare settings.

‘’We can help you understand the various solutions and considerations when choosing the right cold storage product for you!’’
’For example, biospecimen storage temperatures can range from -20⁰C to -86⁰C. Vaccines storage however can be at higher temperatures such as +2⁰C.''
‘’First things first, temperature range is a vital factor. How chilly your fridge or freezer needs to be will depend on the individual preservation requirements.’’
‘’In Antarctica, we felt the breeze of -57⁰C!’’

Temperature ranges in cold storage solutions

When choosing the right product or solution for your environment, you must consider what your requirements are at present, as well as what your requirements are likely to be in the future.

If your samples, workflows and output products are likely to remain the same then you should continue delving into other purchase considerations. If you want to account for scalability and additional preservation needs, however, then a broader-range fridge or freezer may be a more future-proof solution.

Either way, Withnell offers an expansive temperature range of cold storage solutions. From +8⁰C to -80⁰C across several products and brand providers.

Storage capacity

Depending on the size of your facilities, it may be the case that storage capacity has been reduced to meet physical footprint constraints. It’s also important to remember that the larger the fridge, freezer or chamber you choose, the more accessibility is important.

The ALS reach-in freezer units, for example, have either a 4000L or 6000L capacity but are paired with 4-6 service doors to allow for ease of reaching in. This ensures that workflows and laboratory processes remain efficient.

If floorspace is a primary factor you’re considering during the hunt for the perfect cold storage solution, the Farrar ULT freezer may be the right choice. This product has the capacity of 6 standard ULT freezers, roughly 5380L but has an area footprint of just 47 sq. ft.

‘’Have you seen Withnell’s recent custom built chamber solution? Think how many of us penguins could squeeze in there!’’
‘’It’s also the case that sometimes a standalone fridge or freezer may not be the right choice either. Which is where bespoke services are helpful too.’’
’It was a customised testing chamber for a logistics providers looking to test a robotic system.’’

Temperature uniformity and cold storage recovery times

Advanced technology has enabled several new cold storage solutions to enter the market with improved temperature uniformity capabilities. Engineering continues to expand and so with it has the Farrar product range, which offers the best uniformity on the market, +/-3.00C.

Temperature recovery is also a vital aspect of a fridge or freezer. If you consider how often your team will be opening and closing the door of a cold storage product, it may be the case that recovering the temperature is more important than unifying it.

Where sample integrity is critical, it’s likely that your cold storage solution should account for both uniformity and recovery. Environments where vaccine storage occurs for example, require precision recovery to ensure to mitigate degradation risks even from minutes of a chamber door being open.

‘’Monitoring internal temperatures is very important for uniformity.’’
‘’Some fridges and freezers don’t require an additional device, they have them built in!’’
’Monitoring temperatures goes beyond uniformity, many cold storage solutions are paired with sensors and devices to ensure accurate storage.’’

Alarms and monitoring integration

Fridges, freezers and chambers are highly reliable and accurate with controlling temperature, however, there can be occasions where external factors can affect the internal temps. For example, an electricity failure at the outlet can cause a freezer to stop working and begin to defrost which can have detrimental effects on any stored bio samples.

Another example is when the maintenance of a storage solution is required. Calibration and general wear and tear can be highlighted when a freezer or fridge requires component updates or temperature fluctuations.

In instances like these, it’s important to consider whether your ideal cold storage solution involves being paired with a separate sensor or device, or whether your budget can accommodate a system with diagnostic features to overcome component failure.

The AiroSensor is a cost effective device which can sync temperature, fridges, chambers or freezers with internal systems to ensure a full report of temperature readings. Allowing you to backdate data to the cloud and react to any deviations. The digital alarm safeguards samples by notifying stakeholders via SMS too.

Alternatively, systems like the Nexus ULT freezer have built in monitoring to ensure the consistent oversight of internal components. When the maximum wear threshold, which can be pre-set, has been reached then an alarm prompt will sound.

’That’s everything I can think of that should be considered when exploring cold storage solutions!’’
’But if anyone needed help with any of these considerations, we can offer guidance.’’
‘’Not quite, you can go even further and look at storage capacity, equipment maintenance requirements, energy consumption and much more.’’
‘’Or the Withnell Sensors team can!’’