Cold storage is a gradually increasing need across numerous industries. It involves storing perishable or other sensitive goods vulnerable to their environmental conditions. These include food, medicine, and artwork requiring storage within a specific temperature range to maintain their integrity, shelf life, and quality. In addition, any product or object that can quickly decompose or lose its integrity when exposed to temperature fluctuations needs cold storage.
Chilling or freezing these sensitive goods, especially in the case of cold storage for pharmaceuticals, helps to slow their physical and chemical changes, which preserves their purity while preventing biodegradation. The ultimate goal of cold storage is to enable the movement of these products to end users while maintaining their highest quality.
Some specific products that require cold storage include:
- Cold storage is an essential need for storing foods such as fresh produce, meat and seafood, dairy products, processed foods, and frozen foods
- Vegetable matter such as flowers and plants
- Biopharmaceuticals such as drugs, vaccines, blood samples, IVs, and some dental materials
- Books and works of art such as historical documents, paintings, and film canisters
- Nutritional supplements such as perishables
- Cosmetics such as lipstick and cologne
- Chemicals such as reagents and disinfectants
- Organic textiles, including furs, wool, and leather
- Craft goods such as candles
- Specialized products such as aircraft components
How does cold storage work?
Cold storage facilities maintain cooler temperatures by combining insulation and HVAC cooling systems. They use insulation practices that serve the same purpose for cold storage as for homes by helping determine the heat exchange between the inside and the outside.
In the case of refrigeration systems, cold storage is more complex in design. They use coolant, pipes, radiators, and fans to absorb and release heat and replace it with cooler air.
The main components of the cooling system for storage requirements
Cold storage facilities combine various components to form a smooth and functional system. These components include:
If you think of a cold storage cooling system as a mechanical, human body, coolant (also called “refrigerant”) is like blood. It’s made of a liquid and circulates throughout the system through a series of pipes, tubes, and components.
A compressor is the main component of the cold room cooling system. If we consider the coolant the “blood,” the compressor functions as the “heart” as it helps move the coolant. It compresses the coolant’s pressure and temperature and then pumps the heated coolant into the condenser.
The condenser takes heat from the refrigerant and scatters it into the atmosphere using tubes, fans, and a water shower. As a result, the refrigerant transforms from a gas to a liquid and flows inside the reservoir.
The receiver stores the high-pressure liquid refrigerant condensate that it receives from the condenser. As a result, the receiver allows the entire system to maintain pressure while providing a buffer to handle increased loads.
The separator receives and accumulates the refrigerant from the receiver. Pumps outside the separator suck the refrigerant into another expansion valve. This valve is where the flow rate adjusts before entering the evaporator. The pumps also help in changing the load placed on the evaporator.
The evaporator brings cold air into the cooled space and causes the temperature to drop. It passes cold refrigerant through a series of tubes as a fan blows air through the pipes.
The cold refrigerant in the pipes absorbs heat, and the air exits the evaporator cold, cooling the room and the goods. Once the refrigerant has completed its cooling function in the evaporator, it returns to the first component (the compressor), and the entire cooling process begins again.
Pharmaceutical warehouse design requirements
Typical cold and freezer rooms for pharmaceutical warehouses will be built within the main shell of the building using prefabricated insulated panels. All rooms should have 100% standby capacity in case of chiller failure. For maintenance and inspection purposes, it is essential to position the room cover so that the wall panel and the roof panel are accessible.
Depending on the product volumes used and the available ceiling height in the warehouse building, there are three approaches to room layout.
Rooms with shelves: The simplest solution is to build them with adjustable shelves as a support system for smaller spaces. This arrangement includes an area in the center of the room for temporarily storing vaccines or other delicate products.
Walk-in units: These designs usually have the floor made of insulated panels. They are strong enough to handle foot traffic or light trucks but unsuitable for heavy mechanical handling equipment. A freezer case requires installing a heating mat under or inside the floor panels.It prevents the spread of minus temperatures through the main floor of the building and the freezing of the subsoil. Over time, the freezing of the subsoil will cause frost that can crack the concrete slab.
Pallet racking: This arrangement suits larger cold stores when storing the product on pallets and where there is insufficient height to install pallet racks. The pallets use manual pallet jacks or electric low-lift trucks for shifting. The cooling units should be split systems arranged to ensure a constant even temperature distribution throughout the room. The insulated floor in the pallet warehouse must have the sufficient load-bearing capacity to support the specified mechanical handling equipment. Typically the floor will be concrete with an insulating layer under the slab.
Overall, there are many different designs for cold storage for pharmaceuticals. But the primary factor is to determine the scope of the user’s need, the available budget, and other elements like the product and frequency of storage. In addition, cold storages play a vital role in safeguarding sensitive pharma assets between their manufacturing and transportation phase. Therefore, paying close attention to every minute detail of designing cold storage or pharmaceutical storage requirements becomes essential.