Plastic may also be chosen over glass since it is less costly. For the glass industry, this has had negative consequences: As demand drops, prices experienced to go up. But, unlike disposable plastics, glass might be reused. And although more than the price of an equivalent plastic item, the price tag on a reusable glass item is diminished with each use. “Convenience includes a price,” says Nicoll. “Per-use price is typically higher for any disposable compared to a reusable product, even though figuring in washing and preparation costs.”
Some companies have realized a niche in the region of specialty glass. Scientists to whom a resident glassblower (see accompanying story) is just not available can make to specialty Crucible using their ideas for laboratory glassware. Cal-Glass’s Cheatley recalls once being inspired to make glass hearts–not pieces of jewelry, but true replicas of human hearts where medical researchers could practice placing catheters.
Bellco even offers specialty glass items. Sometimes, says Nicoll, items that are specially designed only for one scientist prove to get universal appeal and make their distance to Bellco’s catalog. “However,” says Nicoll, “it would appear that when specialty markets grow into a certain level for the item, somebody comes along and helps to make the item from plastic.” Most of the more creative requests that Bellco has filled remain a secret–they arose from scientist customers within the pharmaceutical industry and are proprietary.
Cheatley is looking for new markets to overcome competition brought on by plastics and automation. The business recently introduced an all-glass photochemical treatment system known as the EcoStill, which extracts silver from spent photochemicals. As the stills are targeted primarily to use in the photoprocessing industry, Cheatley expects these to prove beneficial in biological labs as an alternative 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 to the chemicals that may damage standard stainless-steel photochemical processors.
But sometimes glass just can’t complete the task. 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.
In recent times, plastics happen to be developed with lots of the properties that glass is valued. For example, polymethylpentene is an extremely clear plastic with optical qualities nearly equal to glass. Polymethylpentene can also be autoclavable, and it is used for beakers, graduated cylinders, funnels, flasks, and many other items traditionally made from glass. Another clear plastic resistant against high temperatures is polycarbonate. Bel-Art markets a polycarbonate vacuum desiccator, employed to remove moisture coming from a sample. A plastic desiccator has several positive aspects within the traditional glass apparatus, says George McClure, an engineer and senior corporate v . p . from the company. Glass desiccators should be quite heavy in order to avoid implosion from atmospheric air pressure, a potentially dangerous accident. The polycarbonate could be taken to an entire vacuum without danger of implosion, and won’t crack or chip if 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 very first product of Rochester, N.Y.-based Nalge Co. was a plastic pipette jar. Nalge’s founder, Emanuel Goldberg, was really a manufacturer’s representative selling pipettes, and many of his customers complained that if they dropped their glass pipettes to the stainless steel storage jar, the tips broke.
A chemist by training, Goldberg welded plastic bottoms to lengths of plastic pipe. “So, ironically, the initial plastic product which Nalge made was made in order to avoid glass pipettes from breaking,” says Gordon Hamnett, national accounts manager for Nalge. “Subsequently, the business developed a great deal of items that were designed because glass products were breaking. We designed a type of beakers, graduated cylinders, and volumetric flasks, modeled quite definitely right after the original glass benchware that was available commercially.” Today, about 25 % of Nalge’s plastic merchandise is disposable; the others are supposed to be reusable.
The need for pH paper within the life science market has expanded during the last decade, according to Hamnett. For uses in cell biology labs, some plastics have already been created to be a little more inert than glass, preventing cells from adhering to the top. Concurrently, plastic surfaces can be treated to ensure cells will stick and form a confluent layer more rapidly compared to they would on glass. “You can type of pick and choose the options from the several types of plastic resins in order to satisfy 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 help make products for specific needs that offer advantages over glass and over other sorts of plastic. Nalge carries a collection of fluoropolymer (Teflon) beakers which can be used for handling hydrofluoric acid, which “basically eats glass,” says Hamnett. The company is also trying out exposing an increased-density polyethylene resin to fluorine gas to produce a micro-thin layer, or “skin,” of fluorine, resulting in a surface which has a chemical resistance just like Teflon’s, but is less expensive. Nalge also provides just introduced a disposable bottle made of the identical material as plastic soda pop bottles–polyethylene terephthalate (PET). “PET is actually a resin containing gas barrier properties which are crucial in cell biology, where media must be kept in a container that may minimize CO2 exchange,” says Hamnett.
But even while plastic displaces glass, new lab procedures and a growing conservation ethic are cutting into using both materials. Automation and improved analytical instrumentation–often requiring tiny samples–have reduced the need for laboratory glassware, in accordance with LaGrotte. “In the past, a scientist or even a technician would do lots of things yourself, using various kinds of lab glassware,” he says. “Now there are many instruments that you just feed samples to, and they also do each of the analysis or mixing or whatever might have been carried out by hand.”
While both glassware and Skeleton model now manufacture items, for example small sample vials, especially for automated use, Hamnett says that the lowering of the volume of glassware useful for classic wet chemistry continues to be so great that the rise in automation-related items is not enough to balance it out. Even though glassware and plasticware items are now available in both reusable and disposable forms, Stanley Pine, professor of chemistry at California 36dexnpky University, Los Angeles, advocates reusing even disposable items. “I’m seeking to teach everybody that people don’t are living in a disposable world anymore,” says Pine. “Lots of this plastic things which was once thought of as disposable probably needs to be cleaned and reused.”
“Cheap” employed to mean “disposable,” Pine says. While a reusable glass pipette cost $10, a pipette built to be disposable–made from thinner glass, with calibrations which can be painted on as an alternative to etched in–might sell for just $1. The maker would argue that it’s cheaper to get rid of the disposable items than it is to manage them and wash them, he explains. “But a lot of us from the academic labs are finding many of the items that was created to get disposable is really excellent,” Pine says. “You can use it, by way of example, in several our undergraduate classes. Even though it doesn’t continue for twenty years, it might work for 5yrs, and it’s probably economically advantageous.”