WO2001049574A2 - Temperature controlling apparatus and method - Google Patents

Temperature controlling apparatus and method

Info

Publication number
WO2001049574A2
WO2001049574A2 PCT/IL2000/000859 IL0000859W WO2001049574A2 WO 2001049574 A2 WO2001049574 A2 WO 2001049574A2 IL 0000859 W IL0000859 W IL 0000859W WO 2001049574 A2 WO2001049574 A2 WO 2001049574A2
Authority
WO
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
storage
chamber
container
thermal
temperature
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/IL2000/000859
Other languages
French (fr)
Other versions
WO2001049574A3 (en )
Inventor
Igal Sharon
Amos Simon
Yechezkel Kaplan
Michael Inbar
Original Assignee
Thermokeep Ltd.
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date

Links

Classifications

    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D81/00Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents
    • B65D81/38Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents with thermal insulation
    • B65D81/3825Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents with thermal insulation rigid container being in the form of a box, tray or like container with one or more containers located inside the external container
    • B65D81/3834Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents with thermal insulation rigid container being in the form of a box, tray or like container with one or more containers located inside the external container the external tray being formed of different materials, e.g. laminated or foam filling between walls
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D81/00Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents
    • B65D81/18Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents providing specific environment for contents, e.g. temperature above or below ambient
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D81/00Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents
    • B65D81/38Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents with thermal insulation
    • B65D81/3825Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents with thermal insulation rigid container being in the form of a box, tray or like container with one or more containers located inside the external container
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D2577/00Packages formed by enclosing articles or materials in preformed containers, e.g. boxes, cartons, sacks, bags
    • B65D2577/04Articles or materials enclosed in two or more containers disposed one within another
    • B65D2577/041Details of two or more containers disposed one within another
    • B65D2577/042Comprising several inner containers

Abstract

An apparatus and method for providing a controlled temperature environment for an extended period of time. The apparatus comprises a thermal chamber (15) for holding a heat exchange substance, the heat exchange substance having a reservoir temperature, and one or more storage chambers (20 and 22) for holding a storage specimen, wherein the storage chambers are in thermal communication with the thermal chamber through one or more insulation element (16), such that when the thermal chamber is holding a heat exchange substance, the storage chambers maintain storage temperatures that are between the reservoir temperature and the ambient temperature.

Description

TEMPERATURE CONTROLLING APPARATUS AND METHOD

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to an improved insulated container for maintaining one or more items or material, and more particularly temperature sensitive items, within a limited range of temperatures for a period of time for the insulated container more particularly for shipping or temporarily storing the items or material. More particularly, the container is directed to containers for storing and shipping biological samples, material, and tissue.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Numerous container systems for maintaining their contents at a constant temperature have been previously disclosed. Such containers are often utilized for maintaining the temperature of cold or hot materials. The materials are often placed within an insulated container with insulated walls that are designed to limit the flow of thermal energy between the content materials and the ambient environment of the container. Examples are traditional coolers and Thermos™ bottles. In this type of prior art containers, the period of time which the container can maintain the temperature of its content material is limited by the heat capacity of the content material itself. Hence, such containers are not well suited for holding small quantities of material because the thermal mass is small. Where the thermal mass of the content material is small, these containers are only capable of maintaining the desired temperature of the content material for a relatively short period of time. Other variations of this type of containers are described in United States Patent Nos. 3,045.980, 4,755,313, 4.232.532. and 5,845,499.

Another type of container for maintaining the temperature of material include a heat exchange substance that function as a heat source or a heat sink to increase the length of time the container can store the material. A simple picnic cooler filled with ice and beverages is an example. The ice acts as the heat sink and keeps the beverages cold for a substantially longer period of time than if the beverages were just chilled and then stored in an empty cooler. In a variation of the simple cooler. United States Patent No. 5.924.302 to Derifield describes an insulated shipping container to maintain temperature sensitive material in a refrigerated condition for an extended period of time. The container has an insulated bod} with a centrally located storage chamber for holding the temperature sensitive material to be shipped. The container also has one or more additional chambers in the insulated body for holding coolant material and the coolant chambers are positioned around the storage chamber so that they are between the storage chamber and the ambient surrounding of the container.

The container described in the Derifield patent may use coolants, such as. packaged ice, gel packs, or dry ice (frozen CO.) to act as a heat sink. The coolant chambers and the storage chamber may be completely separated by insulation material for keeping the product being shipped at a refrigerated, but not frozen, condition. Alternatively, the coolant chambers and the storage chamber ma}' be connected \ ia one or more passages, exposing the product more directly to the temperature of the coolant, thereby maintaining the product in a substantially frozen condition.

However, the container of Derifield patent is not capable of shipping multiple products with each product being maintained at different temperatures nor capable of allowing the user to readily select a particular storage temperature for each storage chamber. United States Patent No. 4,294.079 to Benson describes an insulated storage container for temperature control of chilled perishables during shipment. The container of the Benson patent has a storage chamber with an opening on top and an insulated lid for sealing the opening. Within the lid is a second chamber for holding a supply of dry ice. The second chamber is in communication with the main storage chamber via several holes that are provided in the lid. The supply of dry ice functions as a heat sink to keep the pre- chilled goods that are in the storage chamber in chilled condition. The second chamber is substantially smaller than the main storage chamber and the container is only adequate for maintaining the pre-chilled contents at the generally chilled condition.

Another example, United States Patent No. 5,417,082 to Foster et al.. describes an insulated container for maintaining a product at a constant user-selected temperature during shipping or storage using two heat exchange substances. The container has two thermal chambers, each holding a heat exchange substance at different temperatures. One or more storage chambers are provided between the two thermal chambers to maintain a temperature that is within the range of temperatures defined by the thermal gradient created between the two heat exchange substances. By varying the material and/or the thickness of the insulation layers between the one or more storage chambers and the two thermal chambers, different desired constant storage temperatures may be selected. The container of the Foster patent has the impracticality of requiring the use of two heat exchange substances. Therefore, a need exists for a simplified insulated shipping container which provides a limited range of storage temperatures; more preferably one which utilizes only one heat exchange substance, while minimizing the effect of the ambient temperature fluctuations, and maintains a limited range of storage temperatures for an extended period of time. The improved insulated shipping container should preferably maintain a predetermined limited range of temperatures for a predetermined time period based upon a proscribed ambient environment in which the container is positioned, and more preferably maintain a user- selected range of storage temperatures and/or a constant predetermined storage temperature.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION According to one aspect of the present invention there is provided a container for providing a controlled temperature environment, the container comprising a thermal chamber for containing a heat exchange substance serving as either a heat sink reservoir or a heat source reservoir and having a reservoir temperature (hereinafter "Tr"); and one or more storage chamber located between the thermal chamber and the ambient environment or exterior of the container such that the storage chambers are part of the heat transfer path between the thermal chamber and the ambient environment. The storage containers preferably are in thermal communication with the thermal chamber and the ambient environment through at least one insulation element, such that when the thermal chamber contains a heat exchange substance, the one or more storage chambers maintain a storage temperature (hereinafter "Ts") which is between Tr and the ambient temperature (hereinafter "Ta").

The container preferably provides a controlled temperature environment for an extended period of time, preferably greater than one or two hours. It is further preferred that at least one storage chamber be designed and configured to maintain a Ts in the range of -20 deg. C to 4 deg. C, where the container utilizes a heat sink materal. In a different container it may be preferred that at least one storage chamber be designed and configured to maintain a Ts in the range of approximately 19 deg. C to 100 deg. C. The heat exchange substance serves as the heat sink reservoir if the desired Ts is higher than the Tr. and the substance serves as the heat source reservoir if the desired Ts is lower than the Tr.

As used herein, the term "heat sink" refers to a heat exchange substance used to draw heat away, in this case, from storage chambers to maintain a Ts which is lower than

Ta. A preferred heat exchange substance for use as a heat sink is a substance undergoing phase shift, i.e.. transforms from solid into liquid (liquidizes), from solid into gas

(sublimes), or from liquid into gas (evaporates), because they maintain a constant temperature. Examples of a heat sink material are liquid nitrogen, dry ice (solid CO.) . ice water, blue ice (a mixture of DI water, urea and ammonium chloride), and liquid oxygen under STP conditions, or combinations thereof. Another example of a heat sink substance includes reaction mixtures and chemicals capable of undergoing a controlled endothermic reaction which reaches a steady state temperature in a given environment.

In comparison, as used herein, the term "heat source" refers to a heat exchange substance having a temperature which is above Ta which may be used to maintain a Ts which is higher than the Ta. Some examples of a heat source substance includes heated oil. heated water, ethylene glycol, non-oleic liquids having a boiling temperature above 100 deg.

C, and reaction mixtures or chemicals capable of undergoing a controlled exothermic reaction or combination thereof. It is preferable that the heat sink or heat source substance used in the container of the present invention be a substance having high specific heat capacity, so that it heats or cools at a slow rate.

For a given set of values for Tr and Ta, Ts may be determined by the following variables: the thermal conductivity of the one or more insulation elements between the thermal chamber and the storage chamber; the thermal conductivity of the one or more insulation elements between the storage chamber and the ambient environment; and the geometry of the container and the storage and thermal chambers.

Although Tr is preferably a fixed constant temperature for a given heat exchange substance, it is contemplated that the ambient temperature may fluctuate, particularly where the container is used for shipping substances. The fluctuations in Ta (hereinafter "ΔTa") may result in some limited fluctuations in Ts (herein after "ΔTS"). Thus, for a fluctuating ambient environment, it is preferred that any given storage chamber in the container of the present invention maintain a narrow range of temperatures. In some embodiment of the container, the closer Tr is to Ts. the smaller the ΔTS at the storage chambers will be as a result of ΔTa. In such cases, it is preferable to select a heat exchange substance which will provide a Tr that is sufficiently close to the desired Ts in order to minimize the effect of any ΔTa. should the container be exposed to changes in the ambient temperature.

The container of the present invention may be configured such that each of the one or more storage chambers have predetermined Ts with associated ΔTS when the container is used or exposed in environment(s) where the Ta is within the range of temperatures intended for the container. This may be achieved by controlling one or more of the thermal variables discussed above, such as, the heat exchange substance, the geometry of the storage chamber and the thermal chamber, the geometry and/or the material of the insulation surrounding the storage chamber, etc.

For example, a storage chamber of the container of the present invention ma}' be configured for a particular range of temperatures by controlling the particular location of the storage chamber between the thermal chamber and the ambient environment while using a fixed set of insulation material. Alternatively, the location of the storage chamber may be fixed and the insulation materials used in the container may be varied to achieve a desired range of temperatures at the storage chamber.

The container of the present invention may be configured so that the container is initially provided to the user with a set of interchangeable insulation elements and storage chambers that are provided in a variety of materials and geometries so that the user may select and customize the container with one or more storage chambers with desired ranges of storage temperatures Ts for the particular ambient conditions in which the user plans to use the container. For example, the container may be provided with a variety of insulation pieces that fit together to form one or more storage chambers of appropriate size(s) and shape(s) at different location(s) within the container to achieve desired range(s) of storage temperatures, preferably with a narrow ΔTS.

The container of the present invention may be configured so that each of the storage chambers maintain a range of Ts that is different from the range of Ts maintained by any of the other storage chambers. For example, a first storage chamber may be located either closer to or further from the thermal chamber than a second storage chamber and therefore maintain a different range of Ts than the other storage chambers. In another embodiment of the invention, the first and the second storage chambers may be located equidistant from the thermal chamber but the insulation material between the second storage chamber and the thermal chamber may have a higher or a lower thermal conductivity than the insulation material between the first storage chamber and the thermal chamber to achieve a range of Ts different from the range of Ts maintained at the first storage chamber.

Each of the one or more insulation elements may also include a plurality of insulation layers, where each of the plurality of insulation layers may be different insulation material having different thermal conductivity. According to another aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of providing a controlled temperature environment for an extended period of time, the method comprising the steps of providing a thermal chamber containing a heat exchange substance serving as either a heat sink reservoir or a heat source reservoir and having a reservoir temperature. Tr; providing one or more storage chambers for holding material to be; and locating the storage chambers in thermal communication with the thermal chamber and the ambient environment such that the storage chambers are part of the heat transfer paths between the thermal chamber and the ambient environment. The method provides the further step of locating the storage chambers so they are surrounded by at least one insulation element that occupy the space between the thermal chamber, the storage compartments, and the ambient environment.

In one embodiment, the container is designed and configured to be small, light weight and portable while having the capacity to maintain the temperature of the storage temperature for greater than 12 hours, more preferably greater than 24 hours, more preferably greater than 24 hours with a minimal amount of heat exchange material. The invention will now be illustrated in some specific embodiments. It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the same principles are also applicable in other applications and areas where a container is desired for providing a user with ability to store and/or ship items in controlled predetermined temperature ranges for an extended period of time using only one heat exchange material. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will now be described with reference to the Figures which illustrate preferred embodiments of the invention, which invention should not be limited to such preferred embodiments but only by the claims, wherein, Figure 1 is an exploded perspective view of an embodiment of the storage container of the invention;

Figure 2 is a vertical cross-sectional view of the container illustrated in Figure 1 ;

Figure 2a is a vertical cross-sectional view of another embodiment of the container illustrated in Figure 2. Figure 3 is a horizontal cross-sectional view of the main body portion of the container illustrated in Figure 1 ;

Figure 4 is a horizontal cross-sectional view of another embodiment of the container of the present;

Figure 5 is a horizontal cross-sectional view of the container of Figure 4 illustrating another configuration for the storage chambers;

Figure 6 is a vertical cross-sectional view of another embodiment of the present invention where the storage chambers are provided in the lid portion: and

Figure 7 is a vertical cross-sectional view of another embodiment of the present invention with a storage chamber that is movable between different temperature zones.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF SPECIFIC EMBODIMENTS

Referring now to the drawings, Figures 1 -3 illustrate one embodiment of the container of the present invention which has a box-like configuration. In Figure 1 , container 10 is shown having a main body portion 12 and a lid 14. The container may be constructed in such a manner so that both the main body and the lid have outer shells 18. Outer shells 18 are exposed to the ambient temperature of the environment in which the container 10 is placed.

The outer shells may be made from substantially rigid material to provide a protective outer layer for the container and may also provide insulation from the ambient environment, depending on the particular material selected to form the shells. The shells 18 may be solid or have a hollow structure, in which case, it may be filled with one or more different insulating materials or may maintain an evacuated condition. The outer shells may have insulation material 16. Insulation material 16 may be constructed as a composite of one or more materials or it may be divided into multiple sections where each section is formed from one or more materials.

The main body portion is provided with a thermal chamber 15 for holding a heat exchange substance that will function as a heat sink or a heat source depending on the desired range of Ts's. The thermal chamber may be a chamber surrounded substantially by insulation material 16. The thermal chamber may also be provided with an internal wall of material different from insulation material 16 which defines the thermal chamber (not shown). The internal wall may be formed of one or more layers of material. The main bod} is also provided with at least one specimen storage chamber 20, 21, 22, 23, and 25 for holding specimens. A specimen may be placed in the storage chamber directly or use an appropriate container such as an ampoule or similar receptacle. Hence, the storage chambers may be formed in a variety of shapes to accommodate particular specimens and their receptacles. The thermal chamber and the specimen storage chambers may have corresponding plug portions 14a and 14b which serve as covers. Plug portions 14a and 14b may be located on the lid so that when the lid is closed over the main body each plug portions fit into the corresponding chambers in the main body portion and function as covers for each individual chambers as can be seen in the vertical cross-sectional illustration of Figure 2. In embodiments where dry ice or other subliming substance is used as the heat exchange substance, the plug 14a for the thermal chamber and the seal provided by lid 14 preferably allows the gas produced by sublimation to escape to the ambient environment in order to prevent any pressure build up inside the container.

The plug portions provided in the lid for sealing the storage chambers may be formed with a variety of shapes and materials suitable for sealing a particular storage specimen. In certain applications, the plugs may not be necessary or desired. For example, the storage specimen may be placed in a sealed ampoule or in a series of nested containers, where each container provides redundant sealing functions. The assembly may then be placed in a storage chamber without the need for a plug such as 14b to seal the storage chamber.

Figure 3 illustrates the horizontal cross-section of the main body of the container of Figures 1 and 2. In this embodiment, the specimen storage chambers 20, 21, 22, 23, and 25 are positioned at different locations so that each of the three storage chambers can maintain a different range of Ts. The insulation material 16 may consist of, for example, one insulation element which fills the space between the outer shell of the container and the thermal chamber and substantially surrounds the storage chambers.

The storage temperature at each of the storage chambers will be a temperature between the Ta and the thermal chamber's Tr. And in Figures 1-3, because the storage chambers 20, 21, 22, 23, and 25 are located at different distances from the thermal chamber, each storage chamber will maintain a different range of Ts.

A container substantially as shown in Figures 1 - 3 was constructed from polyurethane. The polyurethane container was covered with an outer shell of aluminum foil. The interior wall of the thermal chamber was formed with a layer of aluminum foil. The box-like container was a cube with an outer dimension of 420 mm on each side. The centrally located thermal chamber was also a cube located in the center of the container having sides measuring 140 mm. A storage chamber was located between the thermal chamber and the exterior wall of the container along the container's diagonal and located similar to the storage chamber 25 shown in Figure 1. The storage chamber had a cylindrical shape with a diameter of about 10 mm and a height of about 25 mm. The center of the storage chamber was located approximately 129 mm from the center of the thermal chamber.

The thermal chamber was filled with 3kg of dry ice as the heat sink substance and the container was placed in an environment which was approximately 23 deg. C. Upon reaching a steady state condition, a temperature of -79 deg. C was maintained in the thermal chamber while a temperature of about - 18 deg. C was maintained at the storage chamber for 120 hours.

Figure 2a illustrates another embodiment of the container of Figure 2. In this embodiment, one or more storage chambers 24 may be located underneath thermal chamber 15. Insulation element 16' provides the insulation between storage chamber 24 and the thermal chamber. Insulation element 16' may be constructed as an assembly of one or more materials or formed as a composite of multiple materials.

The configuration of Figure 2a is particularly beneficial when a substance such as dry ice is used in the thermal chamber as a heat sink. Through sublimation, the volume of the dry ice reduces over time and the dry ice tends to recede away from the top portion of the thermal chamber towards the bottom of the chamber. Therefore, locating the storage chamber underneath the thermal chamber helps maintain the relative position of the storage chamber to dry ice for a longer period of time and thus maintain the themial communication between the storage chamber and the dry ice. To further enhance this particular feature of this configuration, the lid portion of the container may be provided with a spring-loaded plunger mechanism 19 that pushes down on the dry ice in the themial chamber. So that as the dry ice sublimes the remaining dn ice is pushed down to the bottom of the thermal chamber.

Figure 4 illustrates an embodiment of the invention where the container has a cylindrical configuration. Figure 4 is a horizontal cross-sectional view of a cylindrical container 30 having a main portion 32, an outer shell 38, thermal chamber 35, storage chambers 40. 42, and 44, and insulation element 36 comprised of, for example, a single insulation material. As illustrated, storage chambers 40, 42, and 44 are located at different distances from thermal chamber 35 and hence the range of storage temperatures maintained at each of the storage chambers will be different. As discussed when referencing the container of Figure 3, the storage chambers are positioned between the exterior of the container and the thermal chamber and the storage temperature at each storage chamber 40, 42, and 44 will be a temperature between Ta and Tr.

Figure 5 illustrates another variation of the embodiment of the container of Figure 4. In Figure 5, the container's insulation element 36 includes more than one insulation material. Storage chamber 40' is substantially surrounded by an insulated region formed by insulation elements 36a and 36a'; storage chamber 42' is substantially surrounded by an insulated region formed by insulation elements 36b and 36b'; and storage chamber 44' is substantially surrounded by an insulated region formed by insulation elements 36c and 36c'. Each of the insulation elements 36a, 36a', 36b, 36b', 36c and 36c' may represent different insulation material so that each insulation element has different thermal conductivity and. hence, different thermal insulation capabilities.

As illustrated in Figure 5, in this embodiment, storage chambers 40', 42'. and 44' are located equidistant from thermal chamber 35. Since the storage temperature at any given storage chamber is a function of the thermal conductivity of the insulation material surrounding the storage chamber and the distances between the storage chambers, the thermal chamber, and the outer surface of the container, in this example, the storage temperatures for the different storage chambers may be differentiated by varying the insulation material used to surround each of the storage chambers. For example, storage chamber 40' is substantially surrounded by insulation elements 36a and 36a' and storage chamber 42' is substantially surrounded by insulation elements 36b and 36b'. The relative differences in the thermal conductivities between 36a and 36b, and 36a' and 36b' will determine the difference in the storage temperatures of storage chambers 40' and 42'.

Each of the insulation elements shown in the embodiments illustrated in Figures 1 through 5 may be further comprised of one or more layers of one or more insulation materials as necessary to obtain the desired range of Ts's at the storage chambers.

Figure 6 illustrates an embodiment of the present invention where main body portion 52 of container 50 has a thermal chamber for holding the heat exchanger substance and the storage chambers are provided within lid 54 which seals the thermal chamber. The main body portion forms a thermal chamber 55 for holding a heat exchange substance and may be provided with a shell 58 which is preferably comprised of a low emissivity material. The shell may include an internal space 57 which may preferably be in a vacuum condition for insulation purposes. In this regard, the shell should be composed of material, and designed and configured to be under a vacuum condition. For purposes of this application, it being understood that a vacuum condition may form or constitute an insulation element. Shell 58 also may be of such structure and material for holding liquids, such as for example, liquid N2 as the heat exchange substance in thermal chamber 55. Shell 58 also may be a rigid insulation material. Alternatively, the internal space 57 in shell 58 may also be filled with an insulation material as appropriate.

The thermal chamber is covered by a lid 54 which contains one or more storage chambers 60 and may preferably be constructed of an insulation material 56. The lid may also have an outer shell 59. The outer shell 59 may be formed of a rigid material for structural or protective purposes and/or it may be fomied of an insulation material where appropriate. The lid may seal the thermal chamber.

As discussed for the container embodiment of Figure 1. the storage chambers may be provided with any shape appropriate for storing the particular storage specimen or specimen receptacles and the specimen may be directly placed in the storage chambers or first placed in an appropriate ampoule or a similar receptacle.

As in the containers illustrated in Figures 1-5, storage chambers 60 of this embodiment are also located between the thermal chamber and the ambient environment. And as in the other embodiments, the range of Ts maintained at each of the storage chambers provided within the lid will be between Ta and Tr. The desired range of Ts for a given storage chamber may be determined b} varying the insulation material surrounding the storage chamber, or by varying the geometry of and between the storage chamber, the themial chamber, and the container or the location of the storage chamber within the lid in relation to the themial chamber and the ambient environment. As with the other embodiments of the storage container discussed above, insulation material 56 may be comprised of one or more insulation elements.

In the embodiments of the containers illustrated in Figures 1 - 6. it will be appreciated that Ta. which depends upon the environment(s) in which the container is placed may fluctuate. In order to minimize the effects of fluctuations in Ta. the heat exchange substance may be selected so that the difference between the Ts and Tr is minimized.

Figure 7 illustrates another embodiment of the invention where a container may be provided with one or more storage chamber where within each storage chamber a temperature gradient is maintained so that the storage chamber may be moved into one or more temperature zones. Container 70 may be provided with a main body portion 72 within which is provided a themial chamber 75 for holding a heat exchanger substance. The container may also be provided with a lid 74 for covering the thermal chamber. The lid may seal the thermal chamber. The lid and the main body portions may be constructed with insulation material 76 where the insulation material may be constructed from one or more insulation elements. Insulation material 76 may be a composite of one or more insulation material or an assembly of one or more sections. The lid and the main body portion may also have rigid outer shell 78 similar to the outer shell structures discussed when referencing Figures 1 - 6. In this embodiment, the main body portion may be provided with one or more storage chambers. One such storage chamber 80 is shown in Figure 7. The storage chamber is located within the main body 72 in a slanted or inclined orientation, such that, its bottom end 81 is closer to the thermal chamber and its top open end 83 is closer to the exterior of the container. The top end of the storage chamber may protrude through the outer shell of the container.

Located within the storage chamber is a specimen holder 84 which is provided with a specimen chamber 82 for holding a specimen for storage. The specimen holder is connected to a plunger 86, the opposite end of which extends out from the storage chamber 80 so that a user may manipulate the plunger to move the specimen holder up and down the storage chamber by sliding the plunger within the storage chamber 80. The plunger may be provided with a knob or a handle 88 on its top end to allow the user to manipulate the plunger. A stopper 85 may be provided at the top open end of the storage chamber for sealing the storage chamber and also provided with a hole through which the plunger slides. To place a specimen in the specimen holder, the stopper may be removed so that the plunger can be removed from the storage chamber.

As illustrated in Figure 7, the storage chamber is substantially surrounded by insulation material 76 and a substantial portion of the storage chamber is located between the thermal chamber and the ambient environment. Because the slanted orientation of the storage chamber results in different portions of the storage chamber being at different distances from the thermal chamber (and hence, at different distances from the ambient environment), the different portions of the storage chamber along its length should be at different temperatures. In other words, a temperature gradient is formed along the length of the storage chamber.

The user may then manipulate plunger 86 to position specimen holder 84 within storage chamber 80 at a position corresponding to the desired Ts. As discussed when referencing Figures 1 - 6, the selected position for the specimen holder may actually maintain a range of Ts, since Ts may fluctuate in response to potential fluctuations in Ta. It will be appreciated that the temperature gradient within storage chamber 80 may be modified by varying the insulation materials surrounding the storage chamber.

It will be appreciated from these discussions, to one skilled in the art that a desired storage temperature for a given storage chamber may be obtained by varying the heat exchange substance; the geometry of and between the storage chamber, the thermal chamber, and the outer surface of the container; the insulation material surrounding the storage chamber; and the geometry of the insulation material surrounding the storage chamber.

It will be appreciated that the above descriptions are intended only to serve as examples, and that many other embodiments are possible and encompassed within the spirit and the scope of the present invention. Thus, the scope of the present invention is not to be limited by the described preferred embodiments but only by the following claims.

Claims

We claim:
1. An apparatus for providing a controlled temperature em ironment different from the ambient temperature of the ambient environment in which it is located, the apparatus comprising: (a) a thermal chamber for holding a thermal exchange substance serving as either a heat sink reservoir or a heat source reservoir and having a reservoir temperature;
(b) at least one insulation element substantially surrounding the thermal chamber and insulating the thermal chamber from the ambient environment; and
(c) at least one storage chamber located between the thermal chamber and the ambient environment along the heat transfer path between the thermal chamber and the ambient environment, wherein the at least one storage chamber is in thermal communication with the thermal chamber through the at least one insulation element, such that when the themial chamber contains the thermal exchange substance, at least one of the storage chamber maintains a storage temperature which is between the reservoir temperature and the ambient temperature.
2. The apparatus of claim 1 , wherein the reservoir temperature is substantially lower than the ambient temperature.
3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the thermal exchange substance is selected from at least one of the group consisting of liquid nitrogen, dry ice, ice-water, blue ice. and chemicals producing an endothermic reaction, or combinations thereof.
4. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the storage temperature is selected from a temperature range of between -196 deg. C and the ambient temperature.
5. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the storage chamber is designed and configured to maintain a temperature between -20 deg. C and +4 deg. C.
6. The apparatus of claim 1 , wherein the reservoir temperature is substantially higher than the ambient temperature.
7. The apparatus of claim 6. wherein the thermal exchange substance is selected from at least one of the group consisting of water, various oleic and non-oleic liquids having a boiling temperature higher than that of water, including oleic acids, mineral oils, ethylene glycol. and chemicals producing an exothermic reaction, or combinations thereof.
8. The apparatus of claim 6. wherein the storage temperature is selected from a temperature range of between the ambient temperature and 100 deg. C.
9. The apparatus of claim 6. wherein the storage chamber is designed and configured to maintain a temperature between 90 deg. C and 100 deg. C.
10. The apparatus of claim 1. wherein the insulation element comprises more than one material.
1 1. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising at least a second storage chamber and wherein the second storage chamber maintains a storage temperature different than the storage temperature maintained by the first storage chamber.
12. The apparatus of claim 1 , wherein the storage chambers are provided within a lid and the lid is configured to close the themial chamber.
13. The apparatus of claim 1. wherein the insulation element comprises a vacuum condition.
14. The apparatus of claim 1, further including an outer shell substantially surrounding the at least one insulation element.
15. The apparatus of claim 1 , wherein the container is designed and configured to maintain the temperature of the storage chamber for an extended period of time.
16. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the storage chamber is movable within the at least one insulation element by manipulating from outside the container.
17. An insulated container for providing a controlled temperature environment different than the ambient temperature in which the container is located, the container comprising:
(a) a main body portion having at least one side wall, a bottom end, and an open top end;
(b) a lid portion for covering the open top end. wherein the lid portion is fomied of at least one insulation element;
(c) a themial chamber provided centrally within the main body portion for holding a heat exchange substance having a reservoir temperature, (d) at least one insulation element provided between the thermal chamber and the exterior surface of the container;
(e) at least one storage chamber provided between the thermal chamber and the container's exterior surface;
(f) one or more sealing plugs provided on the lid portion for sealing the thermal chamber and the one or more storage chambers, wherein the at least one storage chamber is located along at least one heat transfer path between the thermal chamber and the container's exterior surface such that the at least one storage chamber maintains a storage temperature that is between the reservoir temperature and the ambient temperature.
18. The apparatus of claim 17. wherein the at least one insulation element comprises more than one material.
19. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein the thermal conductivities of the different insulation elements are different from one another.
20. The apparatus of claim 17, further comprising a second storage chamber wherein the storage chamber maintains a storage temperature different than the storage temperature maintained by the first storage chamber.
21. The apparatus of claim 17, wherein the storage chambers are provided within the lid wherein the lid is configured to cover the thermal chamber.
22. The apparatus of claim 17. wherein the insulation element comprises a vacuum condition.
23. A method of protecting a specimen from the ambient temperature, the method comprising the steps of:
(a) providing a thermal chamber containing a thermal exchange substance having a reservoir temperature which is substantially different than, ambient temperature:
(b) substantially surrounding the thermal chamber with at least one insulation element; and
(c) providing at least one storage chamber at a predetermined location between the thermal chamber and the ambient environment to hold the specimen, such that the storage chamber is in themial communication with the thermal chamber through the at least one insulation element such that the storage chamber maintains a selected storage temperature range which is between the reservoir temperature and the ambient temperature.
24. The method of claim 23, further comprising the step of placing the specimen in the storage chamber.
25. The method of claim 23, wherein the specimen is a biological sample.
PCT/IL2000/000859 2000-01-04 2000-12-26 Temperature controlling apparatus and method WO2001049574A3 (en)

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