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Application Forum
BioTechniques, Vol. 55, No. 4, October 2013, p. 212
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Research labs in universities, pharma/biotech companies, and biorepositories often store priceless collections of biological samples. This process is normally dependent upon the proper functioning of −80°C ultra-low temperature freezers (ULT). However, it is not uncommon to see these freezers failing due to mechanical troubles. This predicament has inspired discussion on how to effectively monitor ULT freezers and other important lab equipment. Having a monitoring system that could notify researchers of an imminent failure would be incredibly useful in saving the time and money of losing precious samples.

At present, the ULTs use a single compressor system that causes a complete shut-down of the unit in the event of a mechanical failure. However, recent laboratory protocol regulations and technological innovation leading to cost effectiveness, energy sustainability, and increased efficiency have driven the conventional ULT technology to a highly matured industry throughout the world. The development of newer technology has allowed for alternative cooling solutions. TwinGuard Technology is one such new solution that offers a way to securely store biological samples by serving as a fail-safe mechanism, with two independent refrigeration systems (compressors), completely separated from one another. If one compressor fails, the other remains unaffected and the ULT will continue running at ultra low temperatures.

In order to understand the value of samples stored in these ULTs, a study was conducted at Stanford University, CA, which revealed that more than $2 billion worth of samples were stored within their freezers. Stanford houses nearly 2000 freezers in more than 350 laboratories across its campus, which is approximately an average of 6 freezers per laboratory [1,]. Because these freezers store such high valued samples, any chance of malfunction or freezer failure needs to be eliminated. Standard practices for optimum preservation include routine preventative maintenance of freezers, on-call staff to address emergency calls, available empty pre-cooled back-up units, and emergency back-up power in the event of power loss [6,]. Equally important however is technology that allows for round the clock automated monitoring of temperatures that will alert the researcher if and when a failure occurs immediately. One such technology is LabAlert. LabAlert is the first economical and versatile lab monitoring system that can be synced with computers, tablets, and smartphones. This allows researchers to constantly monitor the temperatures and other sensitive parameters of their instruments at any time with the click of a button. This technology can be set up for multiple locations, with customizable alerts, secure data storage, and the ability to check on your lab from anywhere in the world.

Freezer failure is a very real problem that can strike at any time due to incomprehensible technical reasons. Table 1B lists recent incidents that have resulted in significant loss of valuable samples. A highly reliable, stable freezer with backup technology and supplemental monitoring capabilities should therefore be the preferred choice of all laboratories.

1.) Jenson,. Room Temperature Biological Sample Storage: Stanford University Pilot.





6.) Groover,. 2007. The Use of Compressor Cycle Patterns: The Ability to Predict Freezer Failure. CELL PRESERVATION TECHNOLOGY 5:225-228.