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Accessories Enhance Laboratory Cold Storage

For refrigerators and freezers, many options improve usability and reliability

Mike May, PhD

Mike May is a freelance writer and editor living in Texas.

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To keep lab samples or reagents cool, a lab manager needs not only the right refrigerator or freezer but also the most useful accessories. Those range from devices that keep things in place to techniques for tracking conditions inside the cold-storage device.

As an example, David Hayes, product manager at Cole-Parmer (Vernon Hills, IL), says, “Racks and boxes are popular and go hand in hand. Many options for both are available, depending on the refrigerator/freezer type and the sample vessels—tubes, bottles, vials, and more—scientists will be using.” These accessories also keep samples easily accessible and organized.

For boxes, Hayes points out a line of magnetic polycarbonate cryo-boxes. These boxes, he says, include “magnets that securely connect the base to the hinged lid, and this allows one-handed retrieval from freezer racks and ensures samples stay contained in the box.” With clear lids on these polycarbonate boxes, scientists can see how samples have been arranged according to colored inserts and numbered grids.

Others agree on the value of organizational tools as accessories. “Racks and cryo boxes are the most popular,” says Tom White, ultra-low-temperature freezer product manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific (Waltham, MA). “Maximizing storage is key.”

Related Article: Improving Energy Efficiency in Cold Storage Systems

With the large number of samples that go into cold storage, scientists need the most efficient ways to keep track of them and to find them when needed. These organizational accessories should also make it easy to move samples in and out of cold storage. Nonetheless, organization is only one category of accessories worth considering.

Keeping track of temperature and more

The accessories that get the most attention really depend on the application. According to Hayes, the top items of interest “are data loggers equipped with wireless technology and cloud-based monitoring.” As an example, he mentions the Digi-Sense data loggers with TraceableLIVE wireless technology. “Digi-Sense data loggers with TraceableLIVE provide a simple, efficient, and reliable way to ensure your critical samples are not compromised due to parameter variations,” Hayes explains. “This latest technology is ideal for monitoring critical environments in real time, anywhere, from your smart phone, tablet, or PC.” For example, scientists can use this technology to securely monitor current temperatures, control alarm parameters remotely, view data-logging history, and run reports in real time. “No local software is required to use the cloud-based data interface,” Hayes notes. Scientists can get mobile push notifications, e-mails, or texts for cold-storage parameters.

Some cold-storage devices come with technology to track data. For example, the Thermo Scientific TSX Series ULTs (ultra-low-temperature freezers) include a seven-inch capacitive touchscreen. This provides an “interface with lifetime product temperature and event data available for download and archiving, reducing the need for an external chart recorder accessory,” White notes. In systems that lack such technology, though, many lab managers add chart recorders to freezers.

To be certain the conditions stay on point, White says, many lab managers opt for backup systems. “Our newest LN2 and CO2 backup systems provide new redundant temperature probes to help ensure reliability.”

In keeping track, some labs also add keycard access to cold storage. This allows a lab manager to know who opened a device and when. In cases where tracking is imperative, like regulated environments, such a feature can be indispensable.

With the right set of accessories, a cold-storage device becomes more than a mess of samples tossed all over in unknown conditions. But the right accessories for a particular lab depend on the cold-storage device and how it’s used.

For additional resources on cold storage, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit