Plastic is sometimes chosen over glass as it is less expensive. To the glass industry, this has had negative consequences: As demand drops, prices experienced to increase. But, unlike disposable plastics, glass may be reused. And although greater than the price tag on a comparable plastic item, the cost of a reusable glass item is diminished with each use. “Convenience carries a price,” says Nicoll. “Per-use price is typically higher to get a disposable compared to a reusable product, even with figuring in washing and preparation costs.”
Some companies have realized a distinct segment in the community of specialty glass. Scientists to whom a resident glassblower (see accompanying story) will not be available can make to specialty Centrifuge making use of their ideas for laboratory glassware. Cal-Glass’s Cheatley recalls once being required to make glass hearts–not components of jewelry, but true replicas of human hearts in which medical researchers could practice placing catheters.
Bellco also offers specialty glass items. Sometimes, says Nicoll, products which are specially designed for just one scientist prove to get universal appeal and make their distance to Bellco’s catalog. “However,” says Nicoll, “it seems that when specialty markets grow into a certain level for an item, somebody comes along and helps to make the item from plastic.” A lot 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 defeat your competitors brought on by plastics and automation. The corporation recently introduced an all-glass photochemical treatment system referred to as the EcoStill, which extracts silver from spent photochemicals. Even though the stills are targeted primarily to be used inside the photoprocessing industry, Cheatley expects them to prove useful in biological labs as a substitute for evaporators. Unlike standard evaporators, the EcoStill, an enclosed system, does not produce fumes, says Cheatley. And, he adds, the glass EcoStill is impervious towards the chemicals that can damage standard stainless-steel photochemical processors.
But sometimes glass just can’t get the job done. By way of 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 since they are quicker to handle.
Lately, plastics happen to be developed with a lot of the properties in which glass is valued. By way of example, polymethylpentene is certainly a clear plastic with optical qualities nearly comparable to glass. Polymethylpentene is additionally autoclavable, and is used for beakers, graduated cylinders, funnels, flasks, and lots of other items traditionally made of glass. Another clear plastic resistant against high temperatures is polycarbonate. Bel-Art markets a polycarbonate vacuum desiccator, accustomed to remove moisture from a sample. A plastic desiccator has several positive aspects within the traditional glass apparatus, says George McClure, an engineer and senior corporate vice president of your company. Glass desiccators needs to be quite heavy to prevent implosion from atmospheric air pressure, a potentially dangerous accident. The polycarbonate could be taken down to an entire vacuum without danger of implosion, and won’t crack or chip should it be dropped. The plastic desiccator is far less expensive than glass, McClure adds.
Plastic wasn’t always intended to supplant glass, however. About 4 decades ago, the 1st product of Rochester, N.Y.-based Nalge Co. was really a plastic pipette jar. Nalge’s founder, Emanuel Goldberg, was really 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 that Nalge made was made to stop glass pipettes from breaking,” says Gordon Hamnett, national accounts manager for Nalge. “Subsequently, the organization developed a great deal of goods that were designed because glass products were breaking. We developed a brand of beakers, graduated cylinders, and volumetric flasks, modeled quite definitely once the original glass benchware which was available commercially.” Today, about 25 percent of Nalge’s plastic merchandise is disposable; the others are made to be reusable.
The requirement for Pipette within the life science market continues to grow during the last decade, based on Hamnett. For uses in cell biology labs, some plastics happen to be designed to become more inert than glass, preventing cells from adhering to the outer lining. As well, plastic surfaces can be treated to ensure that cells will stick and form a confluent layer more rapidly compared to what they would on glass. “It is possible to form of choose the characteristics in the various kinds of plastic resins to satisfy different demands within the life science lab, where glass does not have the flexibleness,” says Hamnett.
And plastic technology is continuing to evolve, allowing manufacturers to create products for specific needs that offer advantages over glass as well as over other kinds of plastic. Nalge carries a collection of fluoropolymer (Teflon) beakers which you can use for handling hydrofluoric acid, which “basically eats glass,” says Hamnett. The corporation is also tinkering with exposing a very high-density polyethylene resin to fluorine gas to make a micro-thin layer, or “skin,” of fluorine, creating a surface that includes a chemical resistance just like Teflon’s, but is less expensive. Nalge even offers just introduced a disposable bottle made the exact same material as plastic soda pop bottles–polyethylene terephthalate (PET). “PET is actually a resin that has gas barrier properties that are essential in cell biology, where media should be saved in a container that can minimize CO2 exchange,” says Hamnett.
But even while plastic displaces glass, new lab procedures plus a growing conservation ethic are cutting into the application of both materials. Automation and improved analytical instrumentation–often requiring very small samples–have reduced the need for laboratory glassware, as outlined by LaGrotte. “Previously, a scientist or even a technician would do a lot of things yourself, using several types of lab glassware,” he says. “Now there are several instruments that you simply feed samples to, plus they do every one of the analysis or mixing or whatever might have been done by hand.”
While both glassware and Skeleton model now manufacture items, like small sample vials, specifically automated use, Hamnett states that the reduction in the amount of glassware utilized for classic wet chemistry has been so excellent that the rise in automation-related items has not been enough to balance it out. Although glassware and plasticware merchandise is available today in both 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 that we don’t live in a disposable world anymore,” says Pine. “Lots of this plastic items that had been looked at as disposable probably needs to be cleaned and reused.”
“Cheap” utilized to mean “disposable,” Pine says. While a reusable glass pipette might cost $10, a pipette designed to be disposable–manufactured from thinner glass, with calibrations which are painted on as an alternative to etched in–might sell for just $1. The company would reason that it’s cheaper to dispose of the disposable items than it is to manage them and wash them, he explains. “But many of us in the academic labs have realized most of the items that is made to be disposable is actually pretty decent,” Pine says. “It can be used, for example, in several our undergraduate classes. Even though it doesn’t go on for 2 decades, it might last for 5 years, and it’s probably economically advantageous.”