Biomedical Freezers
Biomedical Freezers 101
Blood component transportation
Mitigating stability risks through container validation for blood transportation
Biomedical Freezers
Biomedical Freezers 101
Blood component transportation
Mitigating stability risks through container validation for blood transportation

Cool down your energy costs with a new ULT storage chamber

ULT freezers enable the storage of drugs, enzymes, and other medicinal reagents and samples required by the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors. They typically operate at -20°C to -80°C and have been a technician’s best friend for over fifty years. Righteously earning the title of ‘unseen facilitators’ of our modern healthcare.  

The performance of these ultra-low temperature freezers (ULT freezers) has been heavily reliant on the advancements made to the first archaic models. Their evolution has led them to become an integral part of the 21st-century laboratory, however, everyday operations has overlooked the contribution that ULT freezers have had on the carbon footprint of a lab.  

In recent years, laboratory sustainability has transcended throughout facilities across the world, as businesses ensure that their processes, workflows, infrastructure, and employees are mindful of energy. Even small adjustments to daily lab routines can have a meaningful impact on the energy consumption of the life sciences sector. Laboratory equipment, and the ultra-low temperature freezer, is no exception.

Energy costs & contributions of the scientific sector 

 A typical ult freezer can consume an estimated 7000 – 10,000 kWh of electricity for each year that it is operating. This is approximately 20kWh of energy per day, depending on the size and temperature of the freezer. For comparison, this is equivalent to the amount weekly energy consumed by a typical two-bedroomed home in the UK.  

 These energy-intensive pieces of equipment are, for the most part, an unnegotiable aspect of a lab facility. They’re vital for the storage of medicinal samples, including plasma, viruses, DNA and cells, as well as pharmaceutical and chemical samples, including bacteria, synthetic materials, enzymes and many other applications.  

 The overall running costs of a ULT freezer, however, is also much more than just the energy consumed per day of operation. Many facilities have increased costs associated with HVAC systems or designing a location within the lab that can be kept at a low operating temperature.  

 Other hidden costs of ULT freezers include both the physical footprint of a laboratory’s floorspace and servicing/maintenance which ensures all these freezers run fault-free in the future. Each square meter costs, which is why it’s important to make use of all the ULT freezers within a facility.   

The reality of aged ULT models 

According to a World Review of Science, Technology and Sustainable Development authored by employees at the National Institutes of Health, set point temperature, spacing, dust and excess ice are all factors of ultra-low temperature freezer management that will ultimately lower the carbon footprint attributed to consumption, transmission and distribution of electricity.  

What these management factors don’t consider is the rising costs that Lab Managers and Facility Owners are facing to run the freezers.  

With a typical operating temperature of -80°C, increasing the temperature of a ULT freezer is a modest change which can benefit the planet without effecting the storage reagents. The evidence that this also reduces the costs of running ultra-low temperature storage is less paramount. Given that this advice pivoted the scientific sector almost 20 years ago, at which point the average cost per kWh was much less than it is now, the savings could be monumental.  

However, with academics housing up to 70 freezers per three scientific departments, and biorepositories, CRO’s, CDMO’s and hospitals storing almost triple this, there’s a risk that energy benefits associated with increasing the temperature of a ULT freezer will be counteracted by a lack of oversight for other maintenance or by the specific stored sample requirements, leaving an increase in the temperature redundant or an impossibility.  

Much like upping the temperature is only feasible if a sample would remain unaffected, advice to ensure the equipment is kept ice-free is only attainable for those facilities where budget can be allocated to regulate maintenance. Potentially contradicting other guidance to choose a chamber location where the temperature can be controlled, and to avoid opening the ULT freezer door for long periods of time.  

In reality, the most energy conscious decision Lab Managers can make is to invest in a one-time cost of upgrading their ultra-low temperature equipment. Why? Find out below.  

Is a new ULT chamber really a more energy efficient choice?  

Purchasing a new ULT freezer is more energy and cost efficient because they house improved cooling technologies. R&D prioritised fast recovery and uniformed temperatures, which is why newer systems use forced air convection cooling systems. Leaving a new ULT chamber to achieve a limited temperature fluctuation of up to -/+ 3˚C. With built-in air and water coolers, evaporators and condensers also being integral technological advancements which achieve low energy consumption ambitions, all from the price of one new unit. 

The optimised carbon footprint of a ULT freezer has transformed the models available to the life sciences market. FARRAR for example, partner precision engineering with ultra low temperature freezers to offer the best uniformity on the market.  

Businesses like this have recognised the maintenance and management responsibilities of owning a ULT freezer and have made significant advancements with their systems to create self-operating chambers which enable quick, efficient and sustainable cool down whilst simultaneously accounting for temperature control and recovery.  

Full redundancy and temperature uniformity can also be managed through the system itself. Take FARRAR’s work with Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing, the use of a 2N redundancy data centre provided full fault tolerance. New ULT chambers can be programmed to model the refrigeration requirements set if a system goes down, cooling the entire unit. Older ULT freezers can only mimic this kind of solution by running an empty spare freezer – further increasing energy costs.  

Improvements made with the internal functionality of ultra low temperature systems has meant that they already achieve more energy efficiency than their predecessors, leaving Lab Managers questioning their in-house behaviour and the potentially limiting/bottleneck effect of their ULT freezers on their production: 

  • Limiting access to in-house freezers to allow sufficient time to recover from door opening and temperature inhibitors.  
  • Spending a large amount of time taking ULT freezer(s) in and out of service in order to defrost and conduct further ice/dust maintenance. 
  • Purchased an additional ULT freezer as well as multiple other individual freezers to offer a safety blanket of functionality and increased storage count. 
  • Dedicating budget to maintain an external freezer storage room with personalised HVAC requirements and unique sample loading/unloading processes. 

If you resonate with any of the above, get in touch with us to discuss a new ultra-low temperature storage solution that suits your biopharma manufacturing needs. 

Keeping energy costs cool 

Building systems with low energy consumption in mind is just one way that new ULT freezers are keeping costs cool. Introducing bulk solutions, also referred to as the ‘ULT chamber’, has enabled Lab Managers to maximise the cubic feet available to them in their facility.  

Previous gaps in the market called for bulk ultra low temperature storage solutions which could be employed in limited spaces. Up until recent years, those pharmaceutical and life science businesses who were unable to invest significant capital into a dedicated freezer room, have instead purchased a magnitude of individual ULT freezers, to meet their storage-floorplan requirements.   

Bulk storage solutions, such as FARRAR’s ULT chamber, can house up to 5,380 litres in just 190 cubic ft area. With each cubic ft area holding such importance in laboratory design, associated costs of floorspace can be reduced whilst still offering higher yield storage. This means a lab could fit out their facility with fewer ULT chambers and still maintain a lower energy consumption than if they were to continue to rely on their pre-existing ULT freezers.  

Our new FARRAR partnership

We are a proud distributor of FARRAR's ULC and 4000 Series Freeze Thaw Chamber