Title:
Refrigerated Specimen Carrier Bag
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A specimen carrier bag of the type useful for transporting clinical specimens from a specimen collection site to a laboratory site for analysis is provided with a small, light weight preferably disposable refrigerator unit which can be stored for extended periods without loss of cooling capacity and activated for cooling specimens in the carrier bag during transport, thereby avoiding the need to keep dry ice on hand for this purpose. In presently preferred embodiments the refrigerator unit has a battery driven compressor for circulating a working fluid such as freon or a battery powered thermoelectric heat pump.



Inventors:
Levy, Abner (Beverly Hills, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/234590
Publication Date:
06/18/2009
Filing Date:
09/19/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
62/457.1
International Classes:
F25D25/00; F25D3/00
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Primary Examiner:
ALI, MOHAMMAD M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LAW OFFICES OF NATAN EPSTEIN (LOS ANGELES, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A refrigerated carrier bag for use in transport of clinical laboratory specimens and the like, comprising: a bag of thermally insulating material with a bag opening for providing access into a bag interior; and a portable battery powered refrigerator unit operatively coupled to said bag for cooling said bag interior thereby to refrigerate any contents placed in said bag.

2. The refrigerated carrier bag of claim 1 wherein said battery powered refrigerator unit comprises a thermoelectric cooling device

3. The refrigerated carrier bag of claim 1 wherein said battery powered refrigerator unit comprises a compressor for circulating a working fluid in a refrigeration cycle.

4. The refrigerated carrier bag of claim 1 wherein said battery powered refrigerator is external to said bag and is fluidically connected for delivering refrigerated air to said bag interior.

5. The refrigerated carrier bag of claim 1 wherein said battery powered refrigerator is relatively small and lightweight for convenient carrying together with said bag by a person.

6. A method for transporting a clinical laboratory specimen from a specimen collection site to a laboratory location comprising the steps of: providing at said specimen collection site a carrier bag of thermally insulating material with a bag opening for providing access into an interior of said bag; obtaining and placing a clinical laboratory specimen in said interior of the bag; closing said bag: coupling and activating a battery powered refrigerator for cooling said specimen in said interior of said bag; and carrying said bag to said laboratory location with said refrigerator activated and coupled to said bag.

Description:

This application claims priority to provisional patent application 60/974,076 filed Sep. 20, 2007

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to refrigerated carrier bags for transportation of temperature sensitive materials, such as but not limited to the shipping of clinical laboratory specimens.

STATE OF THE PRIOR ART

Currently limited options exist for the transportation of temperature sensitive products and materials. In general, these options are largely limited to use of insulating packaging and cooling of the package contents with ice and the like.

For example, clinical laboratory specimens are shipped from a specimen collection location, e.g. a physician's office, to a specimen analysis location, e.g. a clinical laboratory. Currently clinical specimens which require refrigeration during transport are placed in a larger insulated container which protects the clinical specimens against ambient heat, or may be packaged in a transport bag or container together with a passive coolant material such as dry ice or the commercially available “blue ice” cooling units. The inclusion of frozen material makes the bags heavy and cumbersome. Also the cold cooling material must be on hand at the shipping location for inclusion in the carrier bag or container whenever needed.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a small, light weight preferably disposable refrigerator unit of a type which may be kept on hand at the shipping location without concern for loss of cooling capacity during storage of the refrigerator unit. That is, the refrigerator units may be kept on-hand without need for refrigerating the refrigerator units.

When a clinical specimen is prepared for transport to a clinical laboratory or other remote destination, the refrigerator unit is activated and operatively coupled to a carrier bag or carrier container in which is deposited the clinical specimen. The refrigerator unit provides cooling to the interior of the carrier bag or container during transport to its destination at the remote location. In a presently preferred embodiment, the refrigerator unit delivers a flow of refrigerated air to the interior of the specimen bag during transport.

In one form of the invention the refrigerator unit is operated with a battery driven compressor circulating a working fluid such as freon.

In another form of the invention the refrigerator unit is operated with a battery powered thermoelectric heat pump.

The invention is not limited to the transportation of clinical laboratory specimens but is generally applicable to the refrigerated packaging of any products or materials, for purposes of shipping, transportation or other purpose.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram in longitudinal cross section of a refrigerator unit according to this invention in association with a specimen carrier bag provided with a self resealing closure perforable by the cold air pipette of the refrigerator unit.

FIG. 2 is a front view of a typical air blower fan such as is incorporated in the refrigerator unit of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a schematic sections diagram in longitudinal cross section of an alternate form of the refrigerator unit according to this invention which operates on the basis of a battery powered thermoelectric heat pump.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

With reference to the accompanying drawings in which like elements are designated by like numerals, FIG. 1 shows a presently preferred embodiment of the invention where refrigeration unit 10 is provided for cooling the contents of a clinical specimen carrier or transport bag 12. The carrier bag 12 may be a conventional envelope-type transport bag comprised of two side walls of thermally insulating material joined along three sides and sealable along a fourth side. In FIG. 1 the bag 12 is only partially shown for convenience of illustration.

The refrigerator unit 10 has a tubular exterior housing 14 in which is provided a compressor 16 configured for circulating a thermodynamic working fluid such as freon through a cooling coil 18. Appropriate provision, not shown in the drawings, is made for venting heat from the working fluid to the outside environment exterior to the unit 10. A fan or blower 20 drives air cooled by coil 18, as suggested by the arrows, towards a cold air outlet 22 fitted with a pipette 24 which extends to the exterior of the refrigerator housing 14. FIG. 2 of the drawings shows a frontal view of the fan 20 as having a rectangular baffle 20a, a four bladed fan rotor 20b on a motor driven hub 20c.

A battery 26 is provided in refrigerator unit 10 and is connected by suitable wiring (not shown in the drawing) to compressor 16 for powering the compressor 16 when refrigerator 10 is activated. A power switch or equivalent means (not shown) are provided on refrigerator unit 10 for activating the compressor 16 when needed.

The refrigerator unit 10 is operatively coupled to the specimen transport bag 12 by inserting the tip 24a of the cold air outlet pipette 24 through a side wall 12a of the specimen bag 12 and into the interior of bag 12. For this purpose, the side wall 12a may be provided with a perforable closure 30 which may be a self-resealing perforable closure of elastomeric material. The refrigerator unit 10 is coupled to bag 12 by forcing tip 24a of pipette 24 through the closure 30 and into the interior of carrier bag 12, such that cold air forced by fan 20 through pipette 24 is discharged into the bag 12. Small vent openings 32 may be provided on side wall 12a to facilitate venting of air from the bag interior so that initially relatively warm air in the bag 12 is more easily forced out and exhausted from the bag and replaced by colder air delivered through pipette 24.

The refrigerator unit 10 may be attached to bag 12 during transport by any convenient means, including adhesive, velcro, plastic ties, clips and the like.

It is contemplated that the refrigerator unit 10, if manufactured in sufficient quantity, could be of sufficiently low cost as to be disposable or recyclable after a single use, i.e., used for cooling the interior of bag 12 during a single specimen transport operation.

In an alternate embodiment of the invention, a thermoelectric refrigerator unit 10′ is shown in FIG. 3, where the compressor 16 of FIG. 1 is replaced by a thermoelectric cooling element 40 powered by battery 42, and arranged and configured for drawing heat from the interior of refrigerator housing 14 and discharging heat to the ambient environment of the housing 14, as by a suitable heat exchanger (not shown) exterior to housing 14. Battery 42 also powers an air blower fan 20 which drives air cooled by thermoelectric device 40 towards the left end of refrigerator housing 14 which has a cold air outlet 22 fitted with a pipette 22 as explained above in connection with unit 10 of FIG. 1. A power switch 44 is connected for switching electrical power from battery 42 to thermoelectric cooler 40 to place the unit 10′ into service for cooling a carrier bag such as bag 12 of FIG. 1. The thermoelectric cooler device 40 is of a type operating on principles generally known and understood, as similar thermoelectric coolers are commercially available and are used in low cost refrigerators. In general the thermoelectric cooler device is electrically powered and has one side which cools while electric power is supplied while an opposite side of the device rises in temperature. However, for purposes of this invention the thermoelectric device is made small and operable by a relatively small battery. The refrigerator unit 10′ of FIG. 3 is used and in a manner similar to that described above for the compressor version of refrigerator unit 10 for purposes of cooling the contents of a carrier bag 12 or the interior of another container.

While particular embodiments of the invention have been shown and illustrated for purposes of clarity and example it should be understood that many changes, modifications and substitutions thereto will be apparent to those having only ordinary skill in the art without departing from the scope and spirit of the following claims.