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Introducting to the international environmental specimen bank group

Environmental specimen banks represent an important tool for the assessment of chemical regulation and risk mitigation measures. Please follow the link to get to know who is involved in the international environmental specimen group and what the specific tasks are in each country.

Further information and videos can be found for:


Preparing of specimens for archiving

Sample preparation of specimens for archiving and analysis requires several steps. All steps are conducted in clean air cabins to avoid external contamination.

  • Manual breakdown of specimens
  • Grounding of specimens in a precooled CryoMill
  • The resulting powder is now homogenised
  • The method allows for the creation of sub-samples

All steps are exemplarily shown in a video by Fraunhofer IME.


Storage of specimens in the environmental specimen bank

  • The storage and archiving of samples are exemplarily shown by Fraunhofer IME. Samples from environmental specimen banks are often stored in the gas phase of liquid nitrogen (-150°C).
  • At Canada's National Aquatic Biological Specimen Bank, each specimen is homogenized and divided into 5 to 15 subsamples of ~20 g. All samples are stored at -80°C in a dedicated climate-controlled building with continuous monitoring of security and storage conditions. In the event of power failure, electricity to the facility is maintained by backup generators. In the event of mechanical failure in any of the freezer units, temperature sensors will trigger the release of liquid CO2 to maintain freezing temperatures until the specimens can be manually transferred to another freezer.
Freezer room at Canada’s National Aquatic Biological Specimen Bank and Database
Canada’s National Aquatic Biological Specimen Bank and Database

Freezers at Canada’s National Aquatic Biological Specimen Bank and Database

Source: Mandi Clark (Canada’s National Aquatic Biological Specimen Bank)

Example: Analysing mercury in archived specimens

The first step requires freeze-drying of specimens under vacuum and the determination of their water content.

  • Freeze-dried and homogenized samples can be easily shipped and are suitable for a large variety of chemical analysis

The analysis of samples is exemplarily shown by Fraunhofer IME.

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