Plastic might be chosen over glass as it is more affordable. For that glass industry, this has had negative consequences: As demand drops, prices experienced to increase. But, unlike disposable plastics, glass may be reused. And although more than the price of a similar plastic item, the price of a reusable glass item is diminished with every use. “Convenience features a price,” says Nicoll. “Per-use expense is typically higher for a disposable compared to a reusable product, even after figuring in washing and preparation costs.”
Some companies have found a niche market in the community of specialty glass. Scientists for whom a resident glassblower (see accompanying story) is not available can change to specialty Laboratory glassware making use of their ideas for laboratory glassware. Cal-Glass’s Cheatley recalls once being asked to make glass hearts–not bits of jewelry, but true replicas of human hearts through which medical researchers could practice placing catheters.
Bellco even offers specialty glass items. Sometimes, says Nicoll, items which are engineered for only one scientist prove to possess universal appeal and then make their distance to Bellco’s catalog. “However,” says Nicoll, “it seems that when specialty markets grow to your certain level to have an item, somebody comes along and helps make the item from plastic.” Most of the more creative requests that Bellco has filled remain a secret–they arose from scientist customers inside the pharmaceutical industry and therefore are proprietary.
Cheatley wants new markets to beat your competition brought on by plastics and automation. The business recently introduced an all-glass photochemical treatment system referred to as EcoStill, which extracts silver from spent photochemicals. Even though the stills are targeted primarily for usage from the photoprocessing industry, Cheatley expects them to prove beneficial in biological labs as a substitute for evaporators. Unlike standard evaporators, the EcoStill, an enclosed system, is not going to produce fumes, says Cheatley. And, he adds, the glass EcoStill is impervious for the chemicals that may damage standard stainless photochemical processors.
But sometimes glass just can’t do the job. For example, “you can’t squeeze glass,” says Bel-Art’s Nunziata, whose company’s product line includes safety labeled squeeze bottles. Also, jugs and bottles for storage are often manufactured from plastic because they are easier to handle.
Recently, plastics happen to be developed with most of the properties where glass is valued. For example, polymethylpentene is definitely a clear plastic with optical qualities nearly comparable to glass. Polymethylpentene is additionally autoclavable, which is used for beakers, graduated cylinders, funnels, flasks, and a lot of other items traditionally made of glass. Another clear plastic resistant to high temperatures is polycarbonate. Bel-Art markets a polycarbonate vacuum desiccator, accustomed to remove moisture from your sample. A plastic desiccator has several advantages within the traditional glass apparatus, says George McClure, an engineer and senior corporate v . p . in the company. Glass desiccators must be quite heavy in order to avoid implosion from atmospheric air pressure, a potentially dangerous accident. The polycarbonate can be taken to a total vacuum without danger of implosion, and won’t crack or chip when it is dropped. The plastic desiccator is far less expensive than glass, McClure adds.
Plastic wasn’t always intended to supplant glass, however. About four decades ago, the 1st product of Rochester, N.Y.-based Nalge Co. had been a plastic pipette jar. Nalge’s founder, Emanuel Goldberg, had been a manufacturer’s representative selling pipettes, and lots of of his customers complained that if they dropped their glass pipettes in to the stainless storage jar, the ideas broke.
A chemist by training, Goldberg welded plastic bottoms to lengths of plastic pipe. “So, ironically, the initial plastic product which Nalge made was designed to stop glass pipettes from breaking,” says Gordon Hamnett, national accounts manager for Nalge. “Subsequently, the company developed lots of goods that were designed because glass products were breaking. We created a line of beakers, graduated cylinders, and volumetric flasks, modeled quite definitely right after the original glass benchware that had been available commercially.” Today, about 25 % of Nalge’s plastic items are disposable; others are designed to be reusable.
The need for pH paper inside the life science market has grown over the last decade, in accordance with Hamnett. For uses in cell biology labs, some plastics have been created to be a little more inert than glass, preventing cells from adhering to the surface. Simultaneously, plastic surfaces can be treated to ensure that cells will stick and form a confluent layer more rapidly compared to they would on glass. “You are able to form of choose the characteristics in the several types of plastic resins to meet different demands inside the life science lab, where glass does not have the flexibility,” says Hamnett.
And plastic technology is continuing to evolve, allowing manufacturers to create products for specific needs that supply advantages over glass and also over other types of plastic. Nalge has a brand of fluoropolymer (Teflon) beakers which you can use for handling hydrofluoric acid, which “basically eats glass,” says Hamnett. The business is additionally trying out exposing a higher-density polyethylene resin to fluorine gas to produce a micro-thin layer, or “skin,” of fluorine, creating a surface that features a chemical resistance just like Teflon’s, but is less expensive. Nalge also has just introduced a disposable bottle made of the same material as plastic soda pop bottles–polyethylene terephthalate (PET). “PET is really a resin which has gas barrier properties that are crucial in cell biology, where media must be saved in a container that will minimize CO2 exchange,” says Hamnett.
But even as plastic displaces glass, new lab procedures and a growing conservation ethic are cutting into the use of both materials. Automation and improved analytical instrumentation–often requiring tiny samples–have reduced the demand for laboratory glassware, according to LaGrotte. “In past times, a scientist or possibly a technician would do a lot of things by hand, using different types of lab glassware,” he says. “Now there are various instruments that you simply feed samples to, plus they do each of the analysis or mixing or whatever could have been completed by hand.”
While both glassware and Skeleton model now manufacture items, such as small sample vials, specifically for automated use, Hamnett states that the lowering of the level of glassware employed for classic wet chemistry has been so great that the increase in automation-related items has not been enough to balance it out. Despite the fact that glassware and plasticware merchandise is now available both in reusable and disposable forms, Stanley Pine, professor of chemistry at California 36dexnpky University, La, advocates reusing even disposable items. “I’m seeking to teach everybody which we don’t live in a disposable world anymore,” says Pine. “A great deal of this plastic things which used to be considered to be disposable probably must be cleaned and reused.”
“Cheap” used to mean “disposable,” Pine says. While a reusable glass pipette might cost $10, a pipette built to be disposable–manufactured from thinner glass, with calibrations that happen to be painted on instead of etched in–might sell for only $1. The company would argue that it’s cheaper to throw away the disposable items than to handle them and wash them, he explains. “But many people from the academic labs are discovering the vast majority of stuff that was created to become disposable is definitely pretty good,” Pine says. “You can use it, by way of example, in many our undergraduate classes. Though it doesn’t work for twenty years, it could last for five-years, and it’s probably economically advantageous.”