How to Choose the Right Cryovials for Your Lab

How to Choose the Right Cryovials for Your Lab

A Brief History of Cryogenics  

Cryovial containers are in all modern labs that use a freezer, and even in some that don’t. They are especially for the storage of samples that need to be protected from sharp changes in pressure.

Cryogenics first earned a name in the 1890s when Kamerlingh Onnes described the science of extreme freezing.

Cryopreservation is now defined as freezing any item to temperatures below 130°F. Liquefied gasses including nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide are used as a medium in the process.

One caveat of cryopreservation is the need for gas exchange between the sample container and the environment to prevent damage from extreme pressure alterations.

You can’t freeze yourself, your true love, or your clone… it’s just not that sophisticated yet.

Thus, a crafty way of containing samples was needed to accommodate these extreme conditions.

Which leads us to the creation of cryovials!

Cryovial Designs and Features

Cryovials are designed for flash freezing while balancing pressure between the container and its environment. The vented cap space is the feature that allows magic to happen.

Other Design Features:

  • Cap Design: Caps come with internal or external threading. Internal threading can save storage space, but this style can make addition and removal of samples more complicated.
  • Self-Standing vs. Round-Bottom: Round-bottom vials are not able to stand on their own and require racks. Self-standing comes in a couple of different styles and adds convenience.
  • Barcoding and Labeling Options: some can be acquired with embedded labels, and some have scannable codes for sample identification.

Understanding Cryovial Materials

Vials are intended to withstand extreme temperature conditions, but not all are made of the same material, and ironically, not always intended for cryogenic conditions.

It’s worth checking individual products to make sure they can be used in temperatures below -20°C.

Polypropylene vs. Glass

Polypropylene and glass cryovials are intended to withstand temperatures as low as -196°C. Glass is better at withstanding high heat and less sensitive to pressure.

Stellar Scientific stocks durable, ultra-pure polypropylene tubes that can tolerate a range of temperatures from -196°C to 121°C.

Safety Guidelines for Responsible Use

All vials come with individual recommendations for safe use. Here are some general guidelines for working with them in a cryogenic setting:

  • Any vial could crack, melt, or explode during a drastic temperature change. Wear goggles if you are handling one that has just been flash frozen or thawed.
  • Thermal resistant gloves should be used when handling samples.
  • Be wary of the limitations of the materials you select. Chemical compatibility and safe temperature range should be verified before you begin.
  • You cannot use vials safely if you are not using your freezer, heat block, or incubator correctly. Check all protocols beforehand.
  • Most importantly, do not place cryovials in the liquid phase of your freezing medium. Make sure the storage location is already at its desired temperature.

Life is pain, but storing your cryogenic samples shouldn’t be.

Selection Tips and Research Applications

The application drives the parameters to look for. What do you need to protect your samples from? See what the following key features can offer you.

Key Features:

  • Externally threaded for easy use in racks.
  • Amber for storage of fluorescent antibodies and other light reactive solutions.
  • Self-standing for storage of frozen cell lines that require pipetting and additional manipulation.
  • Round-bottom vials for clear visualization of tube contents.
  • Internally threaded for extra storage efficiency.
  • Colorful caps and barcodes for high-throughput applications.

Cryoprotection for Any Sample

Our catalog is plentiful, there’s a tube for almost any project or any purpose. Check out these tubes with colorful caps for easy identification, or these amber bottles that block light.

You can heat your cells and freeze them too, or something like that.

Our full selection is sterile-packed, RNASE / DNASE free, and made of durable, clear polypropylene.

Browse our round-bottom or self-standing tubes, whether you need a tube that can handle itself or one that fits neatly in racks.

There’s also a selection of internally threaded or externally threaded vials, depending on your preferred storage modes.

If your experiment needs extra order, see the selection of barcoded tubes and racks.

Also check out accessories like our round-bottom autoclavable cryovial rack, and starbase tube rack for organization of self-standing vessels.


“What Is Considered Cryogenic Conditions?” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, Accessed 20 May 2024. 

Radebaugh, R. 2002. Cryogenic Resources, About Cryogenics. The MacMillan Encyclopedia Of Chemistry.