ULTra Insights Blog

Our Next Generation ULT Freezer, the SU780XLE is Now Available

The new SU780XLE upright ULT freezer pictured with the Stirling Ultracold operations team in our Athens, OH manufacturing facility.
The new SU780XLE upright ULT freezer pictured with the Stirling Ultracold operations team in our Athens, OH manufacturing facility.

The entire Stirling Ultracold team is very pleased to announce the official release of our next generation ultra-low temperature freezer. Now available for order, the new SU780XLE is successor to our award-winning SU780UE upright model, which has become the industry benchmark for ULT energy efficiency since its introduction in 2013.

So why did we decide to bring the new “XLE” to market when our current model was already the established leader in sustainability, energy savings and performance? While we were very proud to have introduced the most significant ULT innovation in decades, the advanced Stirling engine, our new ULT model exemplifies the spirit of continuous improvement that has helped us change the industry mindset in a relatively short time. When we realized that we had learned to make a great freezer even better . . . That’s when we decided to introduce the new XLE!

The SU780XLE not only uses 70-75% less electric power than standard compressor-based ULT freezers, but it takes cooling performance integrity and system reliability to a whole new level.  This will allow our users to keep their valuable samples safer than ever, while at the same time spending even less on energy and lifecycle cost.

The new SU780XLE ultra-low freezer features the following:

  • +/- 1°C temperature variation over time at steady state
  • 1/3 additional sample storage per square unit of floor space
  • New ergonomically designed handle and cabinet
  • 100% natural refrigerant cooling system
  • Industry’s widest temperature set-point range: -20° to -86°C
  • 100% adaptive control, enabling the industry’s fastest temperature pull-down and door opening recovery
  • Universal voltage input, plugs into any outlet

Our freezers have already proven that cooling performance doesn’t have to be compromised to save energy. That’s important because it means that organizations can reduce environmental impact and cost, while using the very best tools to find a cure for cancer. The introduction of the new XLE ultra-low freezer continues our industry leadership in system reliability, sample integrity, sustainability and lower total cost of ownership.

Find out more about our new SU780XLE upright model.

The Stirling Engine Celebrates Its Bicentennial

Stirling Engine inventor, Robert Stirling
Stirling Engine inventor, Robert Stirling

The matchless cooling technology at the heart of thousands of our ULT freezers today, has a unique “garage story” that traces its roots back to the invention of the Stirling engine in 1816. First conceived by a Scottish minister named Robert Stirling, the original reciprocating piston heat engine was designed to improve fuel efficiency over more common steam engines of the time. Although our version of the Stirling engine uses advanced electronics, linear motion control and gas bearings that Robert Stirling could never have dreamed of, his amazingly efficient design concept is at the core of our freezers today. That’s why the recent bicentennial celebration of Dr. Stirling’s discovery is personally meaningful to me and for all of us at Stirling Ultracold.

A model of an Stirling engine can be seen at Galston Parish Church, where Robert Stirling ministered for 54 years.
A model of an Stirling engine can be seen at Galston Parish Church, where Robert Stirling ministered for 54 years.

Since its creation, the Stirling engine design has seen a number of advancements, including an early application of our patented technology on the Space Shuttle and the RHESSI satellite, where the engine has been cooling instruments for over 14 years in a geocentric orbit. In 2009, Global Cooling’s founder David Berchowitz led an effort to harness the significant cooling performance and energy advantages of the free-piston Stirling technology for ultra-low temperature storage applications. Initially, the portable Shuttle ULT was introduced, followed by the undercounter SU105U and the SU780U upright ULT freezer in 2013.

The Galston Parish Church has an active congregation in Scotland today.
The Galston Parish Church has an active congregation in Scotland today.

Since the beginning, our use of the Stirling engine has been unique in the ultra-low temperature market. We’ve been able to provide the research community with more efficient, reliable alternative to decades-old cascade compressor technology–thanks to Robert Stirling’s invention.

Celebrating this invention, Northumbria University (Newcastle, UK) recently hosted the 17th International Stirling Engine Conference and Exhibition. Stirling Ultracold founder, David Berchowitz, and I attended the event, which marked the invention’s bicentennial anniversary. As the global leader in the commercialization of the Stirling engine, we were pleased to share our story with conference attendees. I spoke about our experiences in the ULT freezer industry and how we’ve changed the way organizations think about buying freezers.

Stirling Ultracold’s Neill Lane (left) and David Berchowitz (right) at the Robert Stirling monument in Galson Scotland.
Stirling Ultracold’s Neill Lane (left) and David Berchowitz (right) at the Robert Stirling monument in Galson Scotland.

While in the UK, we also had the chance to visit the church where Robert Stirling ministered for more than 50 years, Galston Parish. Stirling’s invention is held in such high regard at the parish, there are engine displays inside the church, along with a prominent Robert Stirling monument in the local cemetery.

As the Stirling engine passes its 200-year benchmark, I believe we’ll continue to see improvements and new applications for this inherently-efficient engine. We owe a lot to Robert Stirling and, having recently commemorated his achievement, I feel a sense of pride as we continue his story. For a more in depth account of the Stirling engine’s history and its use in our freezers, you can visit our History web page.

University of New Hampshire Test Confirms Stirling ULT uses 70% Less Energy

In the UNH test results, the Stirling Ultracold freezer showed a consistent 70% reduction in power use over the other freezers. Click the image above for more information, as presented in the UNH Research Blog.
In the UNH test results, the Stirling Ultracold freezer showed a consistent 70% reduction in power use over the other freezers. Click the image above for more information, as presented in the UNH Research Blog.

Our assertion that the SU780UE uses one third the energy of standard compressor-based, ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers might not appear believable.  After all, every ULT manufacturer is claiming to offer an energy-efficient freezer these days. That’s why I’m excited to share a post that recently appeared in the University of New Hampshire Research Blog that confirms everything we’ve been saying with vivid, fact-based test results.

Earlier this year, the UNH University Instrumentation Center (UIC) began a project to evaluate ultra-low temperature freezer technology and associated energy consumption. In the test, the UIC team remotely monitored the energy use of three ultra-low freezers including the Stirling Ultracold SU780UE.

Quoting directly from the UNH blog post, the results of this testing were as follows . . .

“In the UNH UIC evaluation, the Stirling Ultracold freezer has shown a consistent 70% reduction in power use over the other two freezers of varying age and manufacturer while the temperature stability has also yielded marketable improvements with the Stirling.”

The UIC study has led to the drafting of a memorandum that will help move the university toward offering financial incentives for the purchase of Stirling ULT freezers.  The UNH Instrumentation Center continues to develop their knowledge in the area ULT storage technology and is also hosting an Ultralow Temperature Freezer Symposiuon on October 13th 2016 in Durham, NH.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown Tours Stirling Ultracold

Senator Sherrod Brown visited Stirling Ultracold and was given a tour of ultra-low temperature (ULT) manufacturing operations by Vice President of Manufacturing, Brett Harris.

At Stirling Ultracold, we’re very proud to be innovating and manufacturing ultra-Low freezers in Athens, Ohio, and developing a U.S.-based workforce in a historically underserved business zone. That’s why I was very pleased when U.S Senator Sherrod Brown recently accepted our invitation to come to Athens and tour our facility.

Senator Brown’s visit not only allowed him to see our manufacturing operation and meet our employees, but also provided an opportunity for us to thank him for his support of targeted federal incentives that have helped us secure new investment and growth for our business.

sherrod_brown_visitAfter introductions and a brief presentation of our products, Senator Brown toured our ultra-low freezer manufacturing operation. This was followed by an interactive gathering with our employees, where Senator Brown shared his thoughts on a range of topics. The senator ended his visit by talking with our leadership team about future plans for our business, including our current efforts to become Zero Waste and HUBZone certified.

sherrod_brown_greetSpeaking to the press about his visit to Stirling Ultracold, Senator Brown made the following comment . . .

“Companies like Stirling Ultracold create opportunities for the Athens community and its workers. Investing in quality manufacturing means good jobs that can help spur further economic growth.”

From my perspective, it was a very good day and I feel fortunate to have been a part of it. I appreciated Senator Brown’s level of engagement with our people and his thoughtfulness in discussing our future plans.

Stirling Ultracold Freezers Now Available on GSA Advantage

SDVOSB & GSA Advantage
Stirling Ultracold products are available on GSA Advantage through, Pulcir, Inc., a CVE VetBiz Certified Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business – Contract GS-07F-0360W

We are excited to announce that all Stirling Ultracold ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers and accessories are now available for purchase through the U.S. General Services Administration and the GSA Advantage website. Through our distributer Pulcir, Inc., U.S. government agencies may now benefit from the ease and efficiency of the GSA preapproved procurement process when buying our ULT freezer products.

Procurement of Sustainable and Responsible, U.S. Manufactured Products

With the availability of Stirling freezers on the GSA Advantage website, it is now easier for government agencies and research laboratories to support federal sustainability initiatives with the purchase of our energy efficient ULT freezers that use 100% natural refrigerant in place of ozone-depleting HFCs. Because Stirling Ultracold products are made in in Athens, Ohio, the purchase of our ULT freezers supports U.S. manufacturing jobs in a historically underserved Appalachian business zone. In addition, our products are available on GSA Advantage exclusively through our new distributor, Pulcir, Inc., a CVE VetBiz Certified Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (Contract GS-07F-0360W). At Stirling, our goal is to provide ultra-low temperature freezers to the research community in a way that is socially and environmentally responsible.

Easy Ordering Online

Ordering a Stirling Ultracold ULT freezer or accessory through the GSA Advantage website is quick and easy:

  1. Visit www.gsaadvantage.gov
  2. Type “Stirling Ultracold” within the product search box
  3. Browse our product line of ULT freezers and accessories
  4. Purchase with ease and confidence

For more information about U.S. government agency purchasing of Stirling Ultracold products through GSA Advantage, you can contact Pulcir at 865-272-5338 or send an email message to Nick Pezzuolo at npezzuolo@stirlingultracold.com.

Staying Ahead of the Curve Regarding HFC Concerns

drip-339940_960_720Recently, the parties to the Montreal Protocol met in Vienna, Austria to discuss a multi-national agreement to further reduce global warming. Diplomats and leading foreign ministers from around the globe are closer than ever to an agreement that would ban the use of refrigerant hydrofluorocarbons (HFC’s). HFC’s are more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the planet, and a ban could avoid billions of tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions.

Scientists and international leaders on climate change have referred to this agreement as the single most important 2016 initiative to combat greenhouse-destroying gasses. In fact, United States Secretary of State John Kerry noted at the conference that climate initiatives such as this are as important as defeating terrorism, “because it has the ability to literally save life on the planet itself.”

As a result of climate change initiatives like those already agreed-upon in the Montreal Protocol, nearly 100 of the most ozone-depleting substances have been phased out of use. The international eradication of HFC’s could save the equivalent of emissions from nearly 300 coal-fired power plants each year.

The final 2016 meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol is set to take place in Rwanda in November. During that time, parties hope to finalize an action plan to phase down and eventually eliminate HFC usage.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

We are pleased to see global initiatives that support the ban of HFC’s and see this as a very important step toward environment sustainability and reduction of ozone depletion. As I pointed out last year’s blog post, Pioneering the Long Journey to U.S. Hydrocarbon Refrigerant Approval, Stirling Ultracold offered the first freezer in the United States to use 100% natural refrigerants – providing an ozone-friendly alternative to HFC refrigerants that emit harmful greenhouse gasses.

We embarked upon a rigorous 3-year approval process in 2012 through the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program and we were granted approval to launch our all-hydrocarbon-based refrigerant cooling system in 2014. We’re proud to have led the U.S. market toward the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants and are pleased to see others moving in this direction.

With pending global initiatives driving toward a future reduction and phase out of HFC, leaders in research organizations and institutions should be looking toward the adoption of alternatives. For the sustainability-minded, this is about more than just being prepared for compliance with future initiatives, but is a priority for protecting our atmosphere. Either way, it should be noted that Stirling Ultracold has been successfully offering a 100% natural refrigerant solution for over 2 years. So there’s really no reason to delay plans to phase out HFCs when buying and replacing ULT freezers.

We will continue to keep a close eye on the discussions in Rwanda this coming November and we look forward to more stringent global regulations against harmful HFC’s.


Remarks at the Montreal Protocol High-level Segment (US Department of State)

The world is poised to take the strongest action of this year against climate change (Washington Post)

What Do Freezer Users Want in a Perfect Door Handle?

After introducing our revolutionary Stirling engine, the most significant ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezer innovation in decades, we knew that our goal of innovating ULT technology was far from complete. Continuous improvement has always been a part of our DNA at Stirling Ultracold, and we strive to be “best in class” in every ULT freezer category.  For this reason, we have continued to listen and gather feedback from freezer users, which is helping us learn how to make a great freezer even better.

A theme that we have heard throughout the researcher community is that there is a less-than-favorable perception of freezer door handles across our industry.  To us, this presented an opportunity to provide our customers with a “best in class” door handle through our continuous improvement process.  This led our engineering team to begin exploring an improved handle design, guided by key attributes that would define a “perfect” door handle.

We determined that a perfect ULT freezer door
handle should . . .

  • Enable one-hand door opening and closing (allowing the handling of samples with the other hand)
  • Provide an easier and quicker way to open frozen, vacuum-sealed doors
  • Assure an easy, reliable and effective gasket compression seal upon door closure
  • Provide built-in door locking security

A New Door Handle for the SU780UEhandle-blog-image

Having completed our design exploration, prototyping and reliability testing over 35,000 open/close cycles (equivalent to 20 years of normal use), all Stirling Ultracold SU780UE upright freezers will now come equipped with a brand new door handle that fulfills the above design goals.

Just like our other freezer innovations, this new handle has unique patent pending features that are not available on any other ULT door handle. This includes our new Kickout-Release™ feature with cam-actuated, 90° rotation that applies a mechanical advantage to quickly open frozen and vacuum sealed doors.

Upgrade Handles on Stirling Freezers You Already Have

We also designed our improved handle to be field-installable on all existing Stirling Ultracold SU780U/UE model upright freezers. A handle “upgrade kit” is now available for freezers in the field, at a price that compares favorably to industry aftermarket pricing for replacement door handles.  Contact your Stirling Ultracold account manager, email us at upgrade@stirlingultracold.com or call us at 1-740-274-7980 for handle upgrade pricing and details.

Video shows open/close mechanical testing of the new SU780UE freezer door handle over 35,000 cycles

My Green Lab Working with Utilities to Standardize ULT Freezer Energy Rebates

The historical absence of independent, objective, third-party data has made it difficult for ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezer buyers to make valid energy use comparisons. The significant importance of this was suggested in last year’s My Green Lab study, Market Assessment of Energy Efficiency Opportunities in Laboratories, which projected up to 648 million kWh of electricity is being used each year to power -80° C freezers in California, alone! With the EPA’s release of the ENERGY® STAR Final Test Method for Laboratory Grade Refrigerators and Freezers, the test methods are now in place to develop energy efficiency standards for ULT freezers.  Ultimately this will help ULT buyers choose products that truly deliver significant energy savings, and enable research organizations to take full advantage of the energy and cost savings opportunities now available to them.

Seizing The Utility Rebate Opportunity

My Green Labs Rebate OpportunityThanks to the utility companies who sponsored the My Green Lab study and the excellent leadership of Executive Director, Allison Paradise, I’m pleased to report that an effort is underway to seize this significant energy savings opportunity. As a non-profit organization and part of The Center for Energy Efficient Laboratories (CEEL), My Green Lab is bringing together the industry’s manufacturers to gather the data needed for offering standardized utility rebate programs to ULT freezer users across the state of California.  Allison’s team is working with the three California utilities (Pacific Gas & Electric Company, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric) and has engaged an ENERGY STAR-certified independent laboratory to perform standardized testing across a range of ULT models, using the ENERGY STAR Final Test Method.

Significant Potential Benefits

As I’ve recently posted, many Stirling freezer buyers have already performed their own energy comparison tests and received custom rebates for purchasing our SU780UE upright model. With the cooperation of ULT freezer manufacturers, independently-certified results will create a considerably streamlined process for California labs to apply for rebates when replacing their inefficient ULT freezers.

This program has the potential to spread benefits well beyond the state of California, as other utilities across the country choose to adopt these ULT freezer energy use standards.  The EPA is fully engaged in this effort as well, and the data collected is intended to provide the EPA with the information it needs to complete its ENERGY STAR rating program for ultra-low freezers, giving ULT buyers a standard that is similar to the “MPG” fuel consumption rating used by car buyers.

Looking Forward to Test Results

We’re pleased to report that third-party testing has already been completed for our SU780UE ULT freezer. We look forward to sharing these certified results when all model testing has been completed and published. Having seen our test data, I am confident that these results will independently confirm our continued commitment to delivering sustainability advantages, as compared to compressor-based systems.

Again, we applaud the efforts of My Green Lab and its utility partners for leading the way toward a more sustainable and energy-efficient future for California research laboratories!

Why We’re Becoming a “Zero Waste” Manufacturer… Not Just “Zero Landfill”

We Pledge Zero WasteAt Stirling Ultracold, we’re very proud to offer products that are known for helping research organizations achieve their corporate sustainability initiatives.  Of course, we realize that the claim of being “green” is made by virtually everyone in our industry. It’s unfortunate that “greenwashing” has become more of a marketing tactic than a real commitment to reduce environmental impact. For us, the call to sustainability has been at the heart of our belief system from the very beginning.  This is reflected throughout our entire product line, as well as our corporate culture. That is also why we have embarked on an aggressive “Zero Waste” program throughout our business.

“Zero Waste” vs. “Zero Landfill”

As has been pointed out in an article by Eric Lombardi, Executive Director of Eco-Cycle, Inc., a focus on “Zero Landfill” implies that burning waste is acceptable. While diverting waste from our expanding landfills is a very good idea, the common practice of converting this waste through incineration generates high levels of greenhouse gases and atmospheric pollutants, which makes no sense environmentally, economically or socially.

At Stirling, we are transitioning our Athens, OH operation into a “Zero Waste” facility.  This means that we are diverting waste from landfills through the processes of recycling, reuse or composting–not incineration.  As part of this effort, we have also initiated a waste reduction program that targets inefficient consumption of materials in the first place.

Our Zero Waste Process

To assist in our transition to Zero Waste, Stirling Ultracold has established a local partnership with Rural Action, a community based sustainable development organization located in Southeast Ohio. Rural Action has been nationally recognized for its programs, and has worked with many partners in our region to deliver training, resources and support for enabling Zero Waste initiatives.

After ongoing consultation and training with Rural Action, we began establishing new practices and behaviors within our organization to fulfill guidelines of their “Zero Waste Pledge”. One example of this included recycling a significant volume of discarded plastic films, which were used by a nearby Marietta, OH manufacturer to make polyethylene guardrail offset blocks for highway safety.

To review our progress, the Rural Action team conducted a comprehensive “waste management assessment” of our Athens operation last fall.  This report indicated that our Zero Waste initiative had achieved an impressive diversion rate of 98%! According to Rural Action’s Zero Waste Program Manager, Andrea Reany . . .

“Stirling Ultracold is already well on their way to becoming a Zero Waste Manufacturer and I have been impressed with their dedication to decreasing the amount of waste created throughout the organization.”

We feel very fortunate to have benefited from Rural Action’s excellent guidance and expertise throughout this transition.  The next step in our process will be seeking Zero Waste Business Certification from an authorized agency later this year.  When we are officially certified, I plan to follow up with another blog post. So stay tuned!

Fred Hutch Research Reports Earning $20K Rebate with Stirling Freezers

In my last blog post, I highlighted how electric utilities and Stirling Ultracold customers are increasingly benefiting from rebates tied to replacing their legacy, compressor-based models with energy-efficient SU780UE ultra-low freezers. In this post, I’m happy to commend one world-renowned research institution who has reported earning rebates for their Stirling freezer replacement program.

In their newsletter “Hutch News”, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center recently posted Ultra-low freezers earn cool $20K rebate from Seattle City Light. The second newsletter article reports how Fred Hutchinson (Fred Hutch) began the process of replacing its fleet of conventional compressor-driven ULT freezers with Stirling models in 2013. As a result, the facilities team was able to contract with their local electric utility, Seattle City Light, to receive rebates of $600 per new freezer. The Fred Hutch team has calculated that replacing their current freezers with Stirling units can save them 481,664 kilowatt hours per year, which equates to a savings of $27,937 annually in electricity alone.

In this newsletter post, Critical-Systems Supervisor, James Mead states . . .

“We did some operational and energy-use studies over a six-month period and were shocked because the energy consumption was so much lower compared to what we were using. Our studies found all claims by the company to be true, if not conservative. We were sold on it.”

Fred Hutch’s Material Director, Mark Burch, also commented, “To me, this is a great example of what happens when we all work together to support the science and save the environment.”

I’m thrilled to see another example of how our products are having a positive financial and sustainable impact . . . and how our users are just as thrilled to talk about it to their communities and stakeholders.

It’s possible that your research organization could also benefit from a utility rebate program for ULT freezer replacement with Stirling Ultracold models. Contact your Stirling Ultracold representative who can help with setting up the rebate process.