Technological Advances in Lab Freezers and Increased Demand Forecast for 2020
Increased blood transfusions. Growth in the demand for blood and plasma. An increased use of cryptopreservation techniques for the storage of cell lines. Research activities related to the treatment of disease. And new technology that better meets the demands of the industry. All of these are reasons behind the increased global demand for lab freezers experienced since 2015, and expected to continue at least through 2021, when the lab freezers market is expected to reach $3.76 billion with a CAGR of 4.6 percent.
While new technology is listed as a major reason for market growth, market growth is pushing that new technology even faster and farther. Here's a look at some of the latest developments in lab freezer technology.
Ultra-Low Temperature (ULT)
Biological research specimens require storage at temperatures below -80 degrees C. In 2009, technology was introduced into the market, providing an alternative to standard compressor-based ULT cooling technology that keeps getting better as the understanding of it grows. What this means for the industry is an energy efficient way to achieve the necessary temperature. The new technology is believed to be 70-75 percent more efficient than compressors. In addition, it also provides reliability advantages, including:
The design is simpler and less prone to failure as it only has two parts.
The moving piston is not subject to mechanical wear as it's supported on gas bearings that eliminate the physical contact that creates heat and friction and leads to mechanical wear.
The engine has a linear motor that controls the stroke of the piston, continuously modulating and changing the temperature as needed, instead of relying on stop-start cycles that can lead to mechanical stress and make your freezer subject to on-off surge currents.
The simplified construction also requires less preventative maintenance in order to ensure that your unit is working at maximum levels.
Unique Default Passwords for Smart Freezers
Thousands of industrial freezers used for a number of industries, including the medical industry, are able to be controlled from any browser that is connected to the internet. While internet-controlled freezers provide convenience for the managers and staff of the facility in which they reside -- particularly in the increasingly mobile world we live in -- they can also be a target for those who wish to sabotage the industry. This is because these systems often use the same default passwords for all units. Thousands of units around the world are vulnerable to attacks that are easy to accomplish: The attacker simply figures out the website to access the freezer, types in a default user and password that are readily provided in the manufacturer's documentation of the system, and suddenly has access to temperature controls, alarm systems, and user preferences.
While manufacturers encourage freezer users to change the password when they set up the unit, many do not and are not required to do so in order for the freezer to work properly. The issue has prompted the state of California will ban the sale of all internet-connected devices that do not contain a strong password that is unique to that specific device.
Just as co-location has changed the landscape of the office market, shared space is also making a dive into the research market and it's headed straight for the freezer. Several research laboratories, such as CU Boulder are now either offering rental space in their ULT freezers for other labs, other research labs -- such as UC San Francisco -- are moving their samples off-site to biorepositories. Shared cold storage space is an option that not only saves labs from having to invest in their own ULT freezer on their own, but also reduces the energy consumption and waste of raw materials involved in single-owner cold storage.
Solid State Cooling
While compressor systems cool your freezer by creating cold air and blowing it around the unit, solid state cooling uses semiconductors to draw heat out and redistribute it elsewhere. Without the compressor, the unit has more space inside, is able to maintain a constant temperature, and uses less energy -- making the unit more environmentally friendly and less expensive to run throughout the lifecycle of the unit. The technology is being used in a number of industries, including hospitals and laboratories.
2D Barcode Systems
With an increasing amount of samples used for research and the risk of time, money, and samples being wasted due to temperature fluctuations at busy lab freezers and misplaced or mislabeled samples, new lab freezer technology provides the ability for researchers to track their samples easily through 2D barcodes. Samples destined for cold storage are immediately purged to -20 degrees C and transferred through pneumatic transport, at which point they're barcoded and the barcode is scanned against a location in the freezer. The barcode does not store any other identifying information about the sample, keeping the work that the sample is being used for discreet and available only to the researchers responsible for the work.
When it comes time to remove the sample from cold storage, selected samples are pre-sorted into an empty pipe and delivered to a rack at about 10 samples per minute. The freezer inventory is automatically updated with the retrieval of the samples. These systems have the ability for storage modules to be interconnected in order to expand capacity. Additionally, samples can be retrieved from any of the freezer units to be delivered to a single rack in a remote location, reducing the temperature fluctuations that are common when freezer doors are repeatedly opened and closed again while researchers look for their samples.
Mobile Lab Freezers
The need to address the global danger of malaria, particularly in remote locations, Land Rover and its partners teamed up to create a vehicle with an onboard lab, including a freezer for storing scientific supplies. This technology is enabling important DNA sequencing work to be done in collaboration with African research centers.
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