What Are Ultra-low Temperature Freezers?
Ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers are a form of cold storage that have temperature ranges between -45 and -86 degrees Fahrenheit. Modern labs find them essential for storing biological materials such as enzymes, samples, and drugs.
ULT freezers’ temperature range make them perfect for storing temperature-sensitive materials, such as biological samples. These days, most lab managers and technicians realize the value of ULT freezers in their day-to-day lab procedures.
While other lab cold storage refrigeration options are available, such as standard laboratory freezers, cryogenic freezers, and non-explosive freezers, ULT freezers have some distinct advantages. These include:
- Low and stable temperatures
- Temperature uniformity
- Double-circuit cooling, to keep samples safe
- Low noise
- Energy efficiency
- Optimized ergonomics
In this article, we will review how to choose a ULT freezer for your lab and the most efficient way to manage it.
What to Consider When Choosing a ULT Freezer
Most biologic samples, from reagents to cell culture samples, are sensitive to heat. In order to keep these materials fresh and safe for use in characterization and analysis, they need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures, which is where ULT freezers come into play.
There are numerous factors aside from pricing to consider when you are purchasing ULT freezers to improve the functionality of your lab. These include:
Storage capacity is, of course, a prime consideration. The cu.ft area of your freezer will depend on the size of your lab, the number of samples you are storing, and their type. If your lab space is limited but you want to increase your storage capacity, one cost-effective solution is ULT high-density storage. This approach facilitates scalability while conserving funds that can be used to further your important research.
You’ll find a wide range of ULT freezers with varying capacity from mini freezers for small labs to larger options for extensive research laboratories. So, whether you need one for biologic storage, vaccine storage, or basic sample storage, you will easily locate one to hold your required number of microtube boxes.
Just don’t forget: the larger the freezer is, the more costly it will be to operate.
Upright Freezer, Chest Freezer, or Undercounter Freezer
While you are considering your storage capacity options, you also need to consider the style of freezer that will best suit your laboratory. Basically, you have three options: upright, chest, and undercounter. Here are the benefits of each one:
- Upright ULT freezers: These are the most popular type of laboratory freezers. They lend themselves to medical labs, pharmaceutical companies, and research institutions because they provide a convenient way to store biological samples. Not only does their shelving make organization trivial, but they are also valued for their minimal use of floor space.
- Chest ULT freezers: Chest freezers are typically larger than upright freezers, and thus can provide absurd storage capacities. Most chest freezers have additional functions such as digital temperature displays and alarms to warn of temperature fluctuations. However, since they open from the top, typically chest freezers don’t have shelving systems, like upright freezers. So only go for chest freezers if organization isn’t a concern.
- Undercounter freezers: These freezers are compact enough to fit into small spaces to keep your laboratory tidy while providing adequate storage. If your lab has limited floor space, they offer the perfect solution since they take the place of cabinets and counters. The only downside of an undercounter freezer is that they typically have high upfront installation costs.
When you’re on a tight budget, energy efficiency is key. ULT freezer manufacturers keep this in mind and many of them are equipped with polyurethane heat insulation, gasket seals, and double doors—all designed to maximize energy efficiency. However, two big differential factors to keep in mind are the type of compressor and refrigerant.
A conventional ULT laboratory freezer can use around 20 kWh of energy per day. To put that into perspective, that is equivalent to the energy consumption of an average U.S. household. Freezers with ENERGY STAR certifications can reduce your lab’s energy consumption and decrease your lab’s utility bills by utilizing technologies such as advanced microprocessor temperature controllers, more efficient cooling compressors, and defrost sensors.
Temperature uniformity refers to consistency in temperature throughout the different areas of the freezer, both at the sides and in the middle. Maintain this helps keep any samples from defrosting. There are two main reasons why freezers lack temperature uniformity:
- Interior convection: In this case, the freezer’s average temperature will be higher at the top.
- Insulation thickness: Some areas are inevitably less well-insulated than others. For example, around the door seal.
You can decrease this variability by:
- Due diligence: Do plenty of research before you purchase and compare different makes and models of freezers.
- Storage capacity: Don’t buy a freezer with more space than you need. When there are big empty spaces in your freezer, more air can circulate. This will increase temperature fluctuation.
The collection and preservation of critical biologic samples are essential for research and diagnostic labs. Some specimens may even be irreplaceable. ULT freezers provide exceptional protection for precious biological samples, particularly when it comes to long-term storage.
One of the main benefits of ULT freezers is that they are generally fitted with a backup cooling system. Backup systems are not designed to operate cooling systems, but they do provide a temporary solution if, for some reason, your lab loses power.
Ergonomic design is a key consideration when purchasing ultra low temp freezers because it can increase efficiency and productivity throughout the lab.
Many reputable freezer manufacturers offer models with specific ergonomic features. For example, Thermo Fisher Scientific offers a range of high-quality stainless steel ULT freezers with specific ergonomic features like:
- Digital temperature display
- Inner doors
- Ergonomic handles
- Touch screen temperature control and monitoring
- Optimized sample storage configuration
- Fastest door opening recovery
- Advanced compressor technology
- Vacuum insulation panels
Further Understanding Lab Freezer Organization
If your lab freezer is not optimally organized, your organization is losing money. Here are some tips:
Reagents, such as nucleotides, enzymes, and amino acids, need to be on hand so your team can execute specific types of lab tests.
Some reagents are heat-sensitive and quickly decompose at room temperature, whereas others are extremely volatile and need to be stored in a freezer where they will remain in a liquid state. Storing this type of reagent in a ULT freezer will ensure not only lab safety but will also extend the shelf life of your inventory.
Applications in Life Science
ULT freezer storage is an essential asset in a modern life science laboratory. These freezers are essential for compliance, lab safety, and keeping costs at a minimum. They also go a long way in helping your team members keep your samples organized, which makes them easy to find. ULT freezers can be used in a variety of lab settings including:
- Medical research and diagnostics
- Pharmaceutical evaluation and compliance
- Agricultural research
- Genetics research
- Histology and Cytology
Get Ahead of Your Project with Reagent Management from Genemod
Installing ULT freezers in your lab can significantly increase your productivity and efficiency and reduce your costs. And with Genemod’s inventory management system you can take reagent management to the next level with cutting-edge lab automation.
Our integrated solution allows you to keep all your reagents (and other vital samples) organized in your ULT freezers. Inventory is shared with all team members so that they can quickly find the exact location of reagents, reducing the risk of unnecessary thawing and wastage that is caused by manual searches.
Contact Genemod today to find out more about how we can help you bring your lab into the modern era.