Ultra-Low Temperature Freezer Failure Resulted in Loss of Research Samples

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Type:  Lessons Learned

Publisher:  Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY


Topics:  Electrical, Maintenance, Laboratory

Ultra-Low Temperature freezers are generally used for long term sample storage stored in "out of the way" locations and may go for lengthy periods of time without being looked at. It is important to have redundant alarm and emergency backup systems to notify research and maintenance personnel when there is a failure. Upon opening the unit, the research assistant found the interior of the unit to be at room temperature (21 degrees C) instead of the -86 degrees C it was set to maintain. As a result, most of the research samples stored within the freezer were destroyed.

The alarm cable (RS-232 connector) was found unattached and laying on the floor behind the freezer. (Note: This provides a remote alarm to BNL Bldg 600 Chilled Water Facility. This antiquated alarm is of a "normally closed" design and will identify power failure and/or over temperature conditions, (but will not alarm when disconnected). If the alarm cable had been attached (or if the system had identified and alarmed when it was unattached), then monitoring personnel at the Chilled Water Facility would have been alerted and responded. Research personnel would have transferred the samples to other locations to prevent them from thawing.

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