Available storage space continues to be a critical issue for every biorepository. In the latest Inside Biobanking blog post "A Forgotten key to Biorepository Efficiency: Maximizing Storage Space", this issue is raised and many good fundamental concepts are introduced to operate a more efficient biobank. In addition, I have found that the following six ideas will lead to gains in storage capacity by increasing storage density, and should be evaluated in every biorepository, whether you manage your own or outsource.
- Optimize freezers that use vacuum panels for insulation rather than sprayed-in foam: vacuum panels are cost effective to manufacture, provide a more uniform interior temperature, and allow for thinner side walls. Thinner side walls mean more internal storage space. For example, the new 32ft³ UXF product line (Thermo Fisher Scientific) can store up to 70,000 samples in the same footprint as their 25ft³ models, a 40 percent increase in capacity per unit of floor space. This freezer may be highest-capacity commercially available ULT unit on the market.
- Use higher capacity in liquid nitrogen (LN2) freezers: MVE and Taylor Wharton both offer a 94,000-sample LN2 tank that fits in the same floor space as their 80,000-sample tank. Both manufacturers increased space by adding height while maintaining the equivalent footprint. Again, gaining capacity through density in the use of facility space.
- Use vertical racking: LN2 tanks are typically cylindrical because of the vapor chamber that holds the LN2. Many biobanks use horizontal racking, in stack heights of 11 to 13 box slots, to suspend the specimens inside the tank. Vertical racks turn the sample boxes on their sides and allow more boxes to fit inside the cylindrical space. In a proper pack-out, vertical racks can yield up to 20 percent more capacity.
- Reduce wasted space in shelving: ambient and walk-in storage typically have evenly spaced shelving. Take a picture of a typical unit and look at how much wasted space there is above each shelf. Consider reducing this space and installing additional shelves where possible.
- Consolidate storage: do an informal audit of your storage systems by opening some random sample boxes and see how full they are. Are there opportunities to consolidate samples within boxes or add boxes to a half-filled freezer?
- Keep only what is useful: biobanks should periodically review and assess their collections. You could call this adding capacity by letting go.I have found that these six strategies can improve use of space and allow you to be more efficient.
Let us know what challenges you have faced in storing your samples.What are your ideas or plans to maximize the value and efficiency of your biobank and samples? I'd like to hear about your ideas and comments below.