Development of a device for the aseptic freeze-drying of samples in vials and microwell plates

 

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This freeze-drying device was developed specifically to meet a need that arose from one of our contract research projects. In this project we needed to develop a method of lyophilizing bacteria in screw capped tubes in batch and aseptically. Though this task at first didn't appear difficult, we soon realized that no easy, cost-effective method existed for this process. Thus we designed, built, and tested this freeze-drying unit as a result.

The simplest use of this unit is to freeze-dry aseptically in vials. As many as 130 uncapped vials can be loaded into the box and sterilized by autoclaving. Samples are then loaded into vials, the lid attached, and the unit is placed in an ultra-low freezer. After the samples freeze (e.g., after several hours) the unit is connected to a freeze-dryer via a quick release hose attached to one of the freeze-dryer ports (several configurations are possible). Small samples (e.g., 20 ul) are lyophilized in 1-2 hours while larger volumes require longer times. Following drying, a valve attached to the unit is closed, thus retaining a sterile vacuum environment, and the box is transferred to a sterile hood. The vacuum is released slowly and the tubes are removed and capped. As noted, the Freeze-Drying Unit is best used in conjunction with a laminar flow hood.

In a similar manner, microwell plates, preferably flat-bottomed plates, can be used to freeze-dry small samples. A special rack is enclosed for the microwell plate, and like the vials, samples are frozen in the wells and then dried.

The freeze-drying of small samples in vials and 96-well plates is increasing in popularity as the value of freeze-drying nucleic acids, peptides, and analytical samples increases. Not only does freeze drying increase the stability of biomolecules it greatly enhances the solubility of many molecular species, including RNA and peptides. Furthermore, the unit is designed to minimize exposure of the samples to contaminants.

The two racks included with this freeze-drying unit are specifically designed to maximize freeze-drying in microwell plates and flat-bottomed 2 ml vials. Heat, which is needed to drive off water from the frozen sample, is readily transferred from the aluminum enclosure, to the rack, and then to the sample. For small volumes, freeze-drying occurs in a few hours.

 

 

Aseptic Vial and Microplate Freeze Drying Unit isolates samples during the lyophilization processs
 

Aseptic Vial and Microplate Freeze-Drying Unit