ICEvial: A Simple Cooling System for Lab Test Tubes

by Jeet Parikh

Medical Devices & Digital Health

Over 7 billion clinical lab tests are performed each year in the US. These tests play an important role in maintaining the quality of care as they are vital to formulate diagnoses and plan treatment options. However, many lab tests must be stored at a cool temperature because heat exposure can lead to incorrect results. This poses a problem for outdoor clinics in a warm climate, as well as developing nations that have limited access to refrigeration units. Also, developing nations can experience a delay in transit to the lab, which can damage samples that are not stored correctly. Therefore, having a simple cooling system for lab test tubes is imperative to enhance the quality of care worldwide.

ICEvial is a revolutionized test tube design that keeps the contained sample at a constant, cool temperature before arriving at a lab testing center. ICEvial has three concentric sections. The center section is like a standard test tube, and contains the actual lab sample, for example, a blood sample, urine sample, etc. The middle section is filled with water, and contains a separated sack of ammonium nitrate. When exposed to water, ammonium nitrate undergoes an endothermic reaction, which leads to a cooling effect. This is the same reaction that takes place in instant cold packs. The sack has a small pumping mechanism attached that can control the release of ammonium nitrate, and consequently, can control the temperature. Finally, the outer section of the test tube is composed of fiberglass to serve as a thermal insulator. While the added water, ammonium nitrate, and micro pump just about doubles the cost of the test tube, it will cover the incremental cost resulting from the wastage of samples and test tubes due to heat damage.

In cases where even small fluctuations of temperature can lead to sample damage, there is a mobile application for fine-tuned control. After the temperature is specified, the mobile device sends a signal to the ammonium nitrate pump via Bluetooth, and the pump starts incrementally releasing ammonium nitrate to lower the temperature. Once the desired temperature is reached, the pump will stop, wait for the temperature to slightly rise again, and then continue pumping. This mechanism will maintain a constant, cool temperature and prevent the test tube from becoming too warm or too cold. Mobile phones are readily available throughout the world, which makes this technology widely accessible.

While ICEvial does not provide permanent cooling, it will be effective for short-term storage and transportation of samples to a lab testing facility. ICEvial’s simple cooling system will help expand the range of modern laboratory testing to outdoor clinics and makeshift hospitals in developing nations. Overall, ICEvial aims to make modern medicine more accessible in an effort to improve the quality of care worldwide.