A laboratory’s cold storage design will depend on the kind of research it is designed for; different labs will, therefore, have varying refrigeration requirements ranging from 4°C high-performance laboratory refrigerators to –196°C cryogenic freezers. Find out what to discuss with the design and engineering teams when planning cold storage facilities for your laboratory.
When designing a cold storage for your research, the configuration you choose can have huge implications on equipment costs, operational costs, and the energy efficiency of your laboratory. Let’s examine the key elements you must discuss with your engineering team when developing a cold storage plan.
Type of lab work
Understanding the types of materials or products that the lab will handle is essential to calculating cold storage types, sizing and power requirements. Vaccines, for example, require a very different cold storage environment as biological samples need to be preserved for examination and analysis, possibly even for years. Serums, vaccines and other biomaterial are highly sensitive to any variations in temperature, so any sizing or specification oversights could lead to huge costs in ruined products and samples. Hence, it’s imperative to design a cold storage (short and long term) that stays stable, efficient and uninterrupted over a long period of time.
Sizing and specifying a cold storage unit
Biological samples can be stored in four different types of storage units, each with its own temperature ranges: standard lab refrigerators (2-8°C), freezers (-20 °C to -30°C), ultra-low temperature freezers (-80°C), and cryogenic freezers (-150°C to -190°C). Your lab may have a dedicated cold room for a specific temperature range or may hold different types of cold storage in one location.
To make sure you get the right cold storage capacity, you need to know what quantities of cold goods your lab will be dealing with and just how many products will be in cold storage at any given time. If you size your cold storage units too small, you won’t have enough room; too large, and you might be overspending on a large unit, wasting energy, and running the risk of overworking the compressor on an empty freezer.
Energy consumption is a major operating cost for cold rooms. Did you know that an ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezer can use as much as 14,000 kWh of energy per year? That’s as much energy as a typical family home uses annually. Optimising your selection of cold storage devices for your research goals will help prevent oversizing or undersizing.
But remember to make allowances for any future expansion of the lab. Bio-research can span several years, and the cold storage area needs to be flexible enough to accommodate changing loads while ensuring existing samples aren’t disturbed. They also need to be able to operate within temperature specifications reliably for years on end.
Ensuring the longevity and reliability of a cold storage
A cold storage needs to reliably operate within temperature specifications for years on end. It also needs to be resilient in the face of any interruption in power or regular wear and tear. Many cold storage fridges and freezers are designed to keep internal temperatures relatively steady in the event of a short power failure, but having an automated temperature monitoring and alarm system can be immensely valuable for ensuring the integrity of your samples. On-site backup generators, liquid nitrogen or liquid CO2 systems are also important storage practices and should be given due consideration when planning a cold storage.
With these discussion points in mind, we are well-placed to help the engineers develop a cold storage strategy that optimises energy usage, specifications and operational reliability. The cold storage specification process can be complex, and it can be very beneficial to discuss with a cold storage specialist at the initial planning stages. A good supplier will help you determine your cold storage requirements and provide some great insights into designing your ideal lab space.
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