Laboratory freezers: Temperature Range and Inventory Management

Laboratory freezers are essential laboratory equipment for storing temperature-sensitive biological samples and volatile chemicals. They are designed to be used in various research laboratories, pharmaceutical industries, and medical and life science laboratories. There are many types of laboratory freezers based on the size and their purpose. 

Temperature Range of Laboratory Freezer

Generally, a laboratory freezer has a temperature range of -15 to -25℃. However, the temperature range in ultra-low temperature freezers is from -40 to -86℃. 

Functions of Laboratory Freezer

The function of laboratory freezers are as follows:

  • The first and the most important role is storing temperature-sensitive materials like volatile chemicals, biological specimens, and cellular components.  
  • A small and portable laboratory freezer transfers the sample from one place to another.
  • Laboratory freezer increases the shelf life of food in food industries.
  • A laboratory freezer also helps in the preservation of samples in research laboratories.
  • Similarly, cryopreservation of bacterial cells and cell organelles is obtained by freezing at a low temperature.
  • Biological samples are also preserved using freezers for different rounds of IVF (in-vitro fertilization). 
  • Pharmaceutical industries store and preserve antibiotics, medicines, and vaccines using laboratory freezers. 
Types of Freezer
Source: https://www.biobase.cc/Lab-Medical-Cryogenic-Refrigeration-Equipment-pl3266393.html

Types of Laboratory Freezer

Based on the size, there are the following types of laboratory freezers:

  • Undercounter freezer: The undercounter freezers are like any refrigerator, except that they are compact and can fit under workstations. Its key features are controlled defrost settings and compact but more than enough storage space.
  • Upright freezer: The upright freezer resembles the household refrigerator as it opens from the front. It is the most common type of freezer and comes in various sizes. These have shelves that help in the organization of materials. Also, these do not take up floor space and ensure a reduction in temperature recovery time.
  • Chest freezer: These are large-sized freezers without shelves. They open at the top and can store large items. Like other freezers, these also come with alarms and display temperature changes.

Based on their purpose, laboratory freezers are of the following types:

  • General-purpose freezers: These are used in general laboratories for storage. Undercounter, upright freezers are used in these cases.
  • Special-purpose freezers: Vaccine freezers, specimen freezers, enzyme freezers, and blast-proof freezers are some of the special purpose freezers. Even though these seem attractive, a general-purpose freezer with a customized container can fulfill the purpose.
  • Ultra-low temperature freezer: These provide storage in temperatures as low as -86°C. It is ideal in laboratories that demand low-temperature storage.

Inventory Management in Laboratory Freezer

Inventory management documents and manages the stocks of any institute, organization, industry, as well as clinical laboratory material. The inventory management of the laboratory freezer is vital. 

Reasons for using an inventory management system

Storage of necessary samples and reagents.

Samples and reagents are the most precious things in any laboratory. Some reagents are replaceable, but the samples are irreplaceable. The laboratory personnel collect, process, and generate data from the sample, which is very time-consuming. The personnel and the laboratory may bear severe loss due to losing and misplacing such samples. Using inventory management software for sorting and organizing valuable samples will help preserve time and effort and also can prevent loss.  

A paper-based system is time-consuming and tedious.

Paper-based systems are one way to manage the inventory in a small laboratory. However, these are not applicable in the laboratory that stores many materials/samples because it creates a hassle for finding the exact sample/material from the bulk of samples/materials. Paper-based systems are also difficult to track if more than one laboratory personnel handles the sample. Similarly, these systems are very tedious and time-consuming. They require manually visualizing the freezer’s capacity, entering the position of a sample, and keeping track of sample volumes and last usage. Likewise, these systems are prone to errors during day-to-day use, scheduled cleanouts, and organization.

Impossible to obtain complete and accurate auditing. 

Although organizing your samples using paper is a step in tracking the stored sample, one cannot gain exact accuracy from it. Using excel sheets and software to manage the stored sample will help acquire a complete and accurate audit of the laboratory’s samples.   

Inventory management excel template
Inventory management excel template
Source: https://www.wallstreetmojo.com/inventory-template-in-excel/

Steps of Managing Laboratory Freezer

There are many ways to start managing and organizing your laboratory freezer. Tips and suggestions on how you can begin managing your laboratory freezer are as follows:

Find the actual purpose of your laboratory freezer

You should determine why your laboratory will be using a laboratory freezer. The types of sample, number of personnel using it, and frequency in which you will be using the sample determine the type of freezer and freezer rack you require. So, choosing the actual purpose can be the first step in organizing your laboratory freezer.

Select the desired type of laboratory freezer

Depending on the purpose and type of sample your laboratory is handling, selecting the correct type of a freezer is the second step in organization. The selection of a laboratory freezer also depends on the size of your laboratory. Likewise, the sample load is another factor you need to consider while selecting the laboratory freezer.

Select the desired freezing rack

There are multiple types of freeing racks available in the market. The factors you should consider while selecting the freezing containers are budget, space inside the freezer, and the convenience of the laboratory personnel. The convenience of laboratory personnel includes using a sliding shelf rack that is easy to take out and carry.

Determine the method of labeling the rack

Everyone has their preferred way of labeling the samples. Another step is choosing the method of labeling your samples using a barcode system, number system, or naming system. You can also use the label maker to label the sample; it provides you with alphanumeric and barcodes for tracking the sample. 

Select the preferred method of inventory management

Once you decide how to store samples and what kind of freezer and freezer rack you need for the sample, you need to determine how to log the usage of samples and the day-to-day temperature of the freezer. Many software provides effective logging of the sample. Freezerworks Sample Management Software, LabKey sample management software, eLabInventory software, and Mosaic are some of the common software for inventory management of laboratory freezers. Another way of logging the sample for managing the inventory is using excel sheets. 

References

Ashma Shrestha

Hello, I am Ashma Shrestha. I am currently pursuing my Master's Degree in Microbiology. Passionate about writing and blogging. Key interest in virology and molecular biology

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