The Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences (NDCN) is one of the world’s leading centres for research and treatment of disorders in the nervous system. The department has a multidisciplinary workforce of hundreds based at the John Radcliffe Hospital (Oxford, UK) and strong links with Oxford University and the broader neuroscience community across the city.

WORLD-CLASS RESEARCH AT THE NDCN

Tiphaine Bouriez-Jones is the Laboratory and Facilities Manager and Departmental Safety Officer at the NDCNTiphaine Bouriez-Jones is the Laboratory and Facilities Manager and Departmental Safety Officer at the NDCN. It’s her job to ensure the continuous provision of services in support of the world-class research that takes place here. In between deliveries of liquid nitrogen and fire alarm testing, Tiphaine gave us an overview of the work carried out at the NDCN and how KoolZone is helping to protect it.

Whilst far from normal operations in these days of pandemic, the research continues and Tiphaine says that lockdown has helped the groups of researchers become more of a community. New rotas and distancing measures mean staff are more conscious of how the different research groups work.

 

1-DAY TO ROLLOUT KOOLZONE SENSORS

It was in the first days of the 2020 lockdown that the NDCN implemented a full roll-out of KoolZone probes across its many freezers. Two people from KoolZone and Tiphaine and her deputy were onsite, masked and distanced. By the end of the day all the probes were in place. ‘It was really straightforward’, says Tiphaine, ‘in fact anytime we have a query we get in touch with KoolZone and they respond immediately, it’s always easy’. 

The NDCN uses KoolZone sensors to monitor the temperatures of its ULT (ultra-low temperature) freezers and cryogenic dewars (liquid nitrogen flasks) which hold samples at -80ºC and -180ºC respectively. KoolZone’s power sensors are installed on crucial circuits which do not have access to back-up generators. 

CONTROL, RANGE, AND FLEXIBILITY

The department is spread across several sites and many levels and one KoolZone gateway manages them all. ‘This would not have been possible with systems I have used in the past’, says Tiphaine, ‘then we were restricted to one system per floor because the signals between the units and the gateway needed a straight line and couldn’t negotiate lifts, columns, or reinforced floors. We had boosters to bounce signals around corners and used multiple gateways.’

Prior to Tiphaine joining the team at the NDCN she’d worked at various locations across the university, using hardwired systems to monitor the equipment. At the NDCN she was impressed by the platform being used by two researchers who had looked for a new solution because of incidents that caused them to mistrust the current setup. Tiphaine continues, ‘They were using KoolZone and I was impressed by its range and flexibility’.

At the time all alarms across the entire site were managed by a a building’s management team with stakeholders in both hospital and university departments. Buildings management viewed screens of status updates for a range of things including temperature, humidity, patients, gas, and power. The engineers would naturally prioritise loss of power or temperature fluctuation in the wards and theatres. So, the operation of an individual freezer so important to the researchers involved was less likely to receive immediate attention.

In addition, hardwired systems require a new setup every time a freezer is added or moved, a big consideration for burgeoning research departments.

Tiphaine says she wanted control over the freezers put directly into the hands of those responsible for the laboratories, so both researchers and facilities staff had absolute certainty that their samples were being monitored 24/7/365. ‘With KoolZone we can monitor the system from any device, anywhere. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at home or on the network. That’s very helpful. If we get an alert in the middle of the night, we can login to the KoolZone website from our phones and find out exactly what’s going on with a freezer without having to visit the site’.

SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

The university and hospital are dedicated to carbon reduction and looking to innovate. Tiphaine has already monitored units to evidence which are the least efficient and require replacing, ‘I would like to use KoolZone to link this data with usage and develop procedures to reduce our energy consumption and increase the life of the freezers’.

KoolZone uses LoRa (long-range) wireless technology that greatly increases the battery life of its sensors – sometimes by years. Tiphaine, ‘Previous systems I worked with used standard batteries and depending where the transmitters were and how much power they needed to send out the signal, I had to replace them regularly. One I had to replace every two or three months because it was in the far corner of the building and went from booster to booster which drained the power very quickly. I’ve been at the NDCN for 18 months and never had to change a battery. KoolZone also displays battery power which I’ve never had in any of the other systems. That’s very powerful’.

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To learn more about the valuable work being done at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences click here.

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