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How To Choose And Use Cryo Labels For Storing Biological Samples

Diagnostics & Discovery | 1 May 2017

Posted by Jeff Denton

How to choose and use cryo labels for storing biological samples

In handling or storing biological samples, it is very likely the samples will need to be maintained in cryogenic storage for long term preservation. Cryogenic storage is extreme cold environments ranging from -80 degrees Celsius to -196 degrees Celsius. These samples, however, still need to be properly labeled, which tends to pose difficulty, as labels may fall off or deteriorate after long term exposure to such a harsh environment.

Our Cryo Hold Labels go to extremes!  View the data sheet >

Labels that wear or start to tear off of your containers during cryo storage are an inefficient use of resources and can be costly. PhDs and other skilled professionals waste valuable time on unidentifiable or unusable samples when their time would be better spent making research discoveries. If you’ve ever encountered labels that don’t meet the needs of your cryo storage process, you’ve probably thought (with justifiable frustration) that a better solution has to exist.

The quality of your labels can make the difference between meeting and missing your budget, schedule, and research goals. Learn more about how to identify and use a label solution that meets your cryo storage requirements.

Cryo Label Best Practices

Cryo TS 976 with HandBiological samples must be preserved in an unaltered state, otherwise their integrity may be compromised. This means samples must be stored in extremely cold conditions, usually below -80 degrees Celsius and sometimes as low as -196 degrees Celsius, requiring a cryo-resistant barcode or label as they need to be properly identified and tracked.

Your samples may be exposed to chemicals such as toluene, acetone, and DMSO before freezing. These conditions wear on the average barcode label and can cause them to deteriorate if they are not properly engineered and tested for these extreme environments.

Cryo labels represent a significant advancement in label engineering. For example, the Computype “wraparound” label has been enhanced with special label material, a clear over-laminate, and adhesive so that it’s truly impervious to liquid nitrogen storage. However, there are still additional steps to take to ensure that your labels will properly adhere. Most pressure sensitive labels don’t adhere well to wet surfaces, so you must ensure the tube or vial you’re labeling is clean and free from moisture, and that your cryo label is properly fit for your specific application.

To optimize the success of the label, apply the cryo label at room temperature immediately after it’s removed from the release liner. This is important because air exposure may dry out the adhesive, decreasing the likelihood that your label will stay adhered to the surface for the long term. While there are cryo labels on the market that claim they can be applied directly to a frozen vial, we still recommend wiping the surface dry if you are able, as this greatly increases the likeliness that the barcode will remain affixed to your container.

As for the printing of cryo labels, thermal transfer printing is generally the best method of producing them. This method of printing gives you the highest quality, fine edge, and accurate small barcodes. However, you must ensure your label material is matched with the appropriate ribbon for optimal print results, reliable scanning and long-term storage. Thermal transfer-printed cryo labels have the highest chemical resistance, and there is a wider variety of label materials that can be used.

Types Of Cryo Labels

To ensure the integrity of your samples, you need a label solution that is fit for whatever extremes it may encounter. Look for cryo labels that can withstand deep freeze liquid nitrogen and vapor phase liquid nitrogen, as well as harsh chemicals they may come into contact with before exposure to the extreme cold. These labels must be able to stay in place in extreme conditions, as well as resist damage when exposed to harsh chemicals or extreme cold temperatures.

The following types of identification are what our engineering experts most commonly recommend for your long term cryo storage needs:

Freezer Cryo Labels

These labels are traditional pressure sensitive barcode labels that perform to temperatures as low as -80 degrees Celsius and are solvent resistant. These labels are typically a white, standard poly color label made of either polyethylene or polypropylene material, and they’re available as a pre-printed or print-on-demand solution. Freezer cryo labels are best suited to fit plastic containers for long-term storage needs.

Liquid Nitrogen Cryo Labels

These labels are applied to glass and plastic tubes and vials and can withstand temperatures as low as -196 degrees Celsius. This type of cryo label is specifically engineered with a clear tab that wraps back over itself, ensuring the barcode image is never exposed to the external environment. Thanks to this clear tab, these labels can withstand both direct and vapor liquid nitrogen exposure. Notably, liquid nitrogen cryo labels can be applied to an already frozen container, as long as the frost is wiped prior to the application.

Direct Mark Technology 

Direct mark technology is printed, cured directly and permanently bonded onto plastic containers. As the most durable identification solution, direct mark barcoding technology can survive nearly any temperature and boasts compelling benefits to other forms of permanent labware identification. Because the image is applied directly to the plastic, there is no fear of adhesive failure.

This convenient technology, along with all of our cryo label solutions, are available as part of Computype’s READY Labware Services offering. This is an outsourcing program in which you can receive your vials pre-marked and ready for use. The benefits of outsourcing through a program like READY Labware Services include improved resource allocation, time savings, and inventory storage.


Stored biological samples carry real human samples, as well as contain test or diagnosis-altering significance for researchers. As a result, reliable and ethical sample labeling and identification are critically important. Computype has been in the heatlhcare industry for over 40 years and we work with diagnostics companies across the globe; this is because we have always prioritized the satisfaction and ethics of our products. When dealing with human samples, precision is expected, and Computype delivers.

By choosing the right cryo labels for your needs and following cryogenic storage best practices, you’re able to protect samples and specimens, reduce inefficiency, and save on laboratory costs, while increasing the credibility of your brand.


Download our healthcare lab catalog to learn more about our cryo label offerings and READY Labware Services.


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Jeff Denton

Based in Ohio, USA, Jeff Denton is Computype’s Senior Product Manager for the READY Labware Services portfolio. He has been in the barcoding industry for 15 years, and has ample experience in procurement and product management. Contact Jeff to learn more about our READY Labware Services outsourced barcoding program and our labware identification capabilities.