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Experimental paradigms and QC testing put subjects through extreme conditions. Heat and cold, solvents, exceptionally high pressure – some or all of these may be applied in research. But if specimens can’t be identified with absolute accuracy, test results are questionable.

Paper labels can fall off. Ink can fade or smear. When researchers at NIH (National Institutes of Health) considered using RFID to identify specimens, they needed to find out if RFID tags could withstand the harsh conditions in labs.

Being researchers, they subjected a batch of RFID tags to the same rigorous tests they used with their other scientific investigations. The tags were put through repeated test cycles, including:

  • Wet and dry autoclave cycles with temperatures as high as 120 degrees centigrade (248 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Multiple exposures to tissue-staining chemicals hematoxylin and eosin
  • High temperatures of 75 degrees centigrade (167 degrees Fahrenheit) for 7 days
  • Cold temperatures as low as -196 degrees centigrade (-320 degrees Fahrenheit) for 12 months
  • Freeze-thaw cycles fluctuating between -196 degrees and 22 degrees centigrade (-320 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit)

The results? RFID tags are plenty tough. The researchers found them to be especially cold tolerant: Even after being frozen solid for one year, the tags still functioned perfectly.  And the tags subjected to freeze-thaw cycles also performed flawlessly even after 50 cycles. In fact, only two tags failed, one after 9 dry autoclave cycles and one after chemical exposure.

The researchers concluded that RFID tags were ideal for life-sciences specimen tracking, durable even in extreme test conditions. They suggested adding bar code labels as a back-up for dry-autoclave and chemical conditions, but emphasized the tags’ 100% tolerance for heat and cold – conditions that are common in many testing and bio-archiving processes, as well as pharmaceutical manufacturing and healthcare cryostorage.

What does this mean for other RFID applications? In more standard conditions – offices, warehouses, retail and manufacturing operations –  RFID functions flawlessly. And for lab settings with extreme conditions, RFID is a valuable tool for maintaining data integrity.

Scientists value accuracy, but they’re not the only ones. Every business relies on accurate information, no matter the circumstances, the products, or the services. RFID delivers, every time.