Lyophilization Technology

Sustainable Cooling for Freeze-Drying Applications with LYOAIR®

With updated European F-Gas regulations affecting many pharmaceutical processes and calls for refrigerant products with a high Global Warming Potential (GWP) to be banned, there’s never been a better time to invest in sustainable, high-performance cooling systems for your freeze-drying projects

One of the most significant contributors to global warming is the use of fluorinated gases. Emissions from equipment that utilize them are now considered to be detrimental to the atmosphere and have an effect that’s up to 23,000 times greater than carbon dioxide. Although they’ve been regularly used in freeze dryers for decades, European Union legislation dictates that alternatives must now be found.

As such, GEA has been looking into alternative low-temperature cooling solutions that use natural refrigerants in commercial-scale freeze drying applications. As a result, the companyhas developed an innovative system using a combination of air cycling (Brayton or Coleman cycle)and carbon dioxide (CO2)-based cooling.

The LYOAIR® system, which has been shown to demonstrate high levels of throughput and reliability, can be operated withoutspecial ATEX requirements and/or installed in a non-ATEX equipped room.The air cycle cooler, for optimal energy utilization, is used to chill both the condenser and, indirectly, the lyophilizer shelves as well. The condenser operates as a cold oil resource during the freezing process.

The GEACO2 boostercan reach shelf temperatures down to –50 °C and is suitable for a wide range of product freezing applications.The cooling system uses natural refrigerants (air and CO2) and has a global warming potential (GWP) of 1 (equivalent to CO2). In combination with the corresponding air cycle cooler, the LYOAIR® system can reach –60 °C on the shelves and down to –115 °C on the condenser coils.

Carbon dioxide has a GWP of 1, which is considered to be the baseline figure or standard for comparison. If, for example, 1 kg of the hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) blend refrigerant R507 is expelled into the atmosphere and evaporates (becomes gaseous), this is equivalent to 3985 kg of CO2being released (Source: AR5: IPCC V, 2014).

Not only does theLYOAIR®cooling system employ natural refrigerants that comply with current greenhouse gas regulations, it also benefits from the integration of highly efficient and economic third-party compressors. The combination of an air cycle system with a CO2 booster offers a lower energy consumption system for freeze dryers compared with a regular air cycle system and provides the full range of temperatures required for effective operation.

Further benefits include the elimination of explosive or toxic natural gases, less vibration and quieter functionality. It’s also easy to maintain and significantly less expensive to run than liquid nitrogen alternatives. Tests have already shown that the system can run for 90,000 hours (approximately 10 years of continuous operation) without the need for a major overhaul. Furthermore, theLYOAIR® system is retrofit-compatible with all GEA Lyophil freezer dryers.

From a business perspective, it’s been estimated that the annual operational costs of using liquid nitrogen is 10 times higher than using the newly developed LYOAIR®system. As such, in terms of return on investment, the energy savings would result in a capital expenditure neutral situation in less than 5 years (not including service charges). Not only that, there’s the added benefit of not polluting the atmosphere and environment withfluorinatedgases, which seep into the local ground water and can be extremely difficult to remove. For large-scale freeze dryers, we’ve calculated that up to 1000 tons of CO2equivalent can be saved per machine.

Key benefits of the air cycle system include

  • technology based on the reverse Brayton or Bell Coleman cycle, with no chemical refrigerants
  • efficient at temperatures lower than –65 °C
  • very low temperatures achievable: down to –115 °C
  • quiet operation
  • smart redundancy because of multiple circuits 
  • 90,000 hours (10 years) of maintenance-free functionality for the air-cooling system 

For an unbeatable combination of quality, excellent performance and sustainable operation,LYOAIR® represents a new way of meeting your long-term corporate social responsibility requirements.

For more information about the LYOAIR®’s electrical energy consumption, efficiency, cooling performance and a business case study, please take a look at our recent webinar. 

Technical Data

Standard LYOVAC Models


Type Shelf area CO2 Air
FCM 75I 5m² 20kw 6,5kw
FCM 200 10m² 2x 20kw 2x6,5kw
FCM 400 20m² 2x 30kw 2x11kw
FCM 800 40m² 2x 50kw 3x11kw

At –70°C Condenser and -20°C shelf operating temperature

Total view of Lyoair installation

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