Plastic is sometimes chosen over glass because it is cheaper. For the glass industry, it has had negative consequences: As demand drops, prices experienced to go up. But, unlike disposable plastics, glass could be reused. And although more than the cost of an equivalent plastic item, the cost of a reusable glass item is diminished with every use. “Convenience features a price,” says Nicoll. “Per-use price is typically higher for the disposable in comparison to a reusable product, despite figuring in washing and preparation costs.”
Some companies have realized a niche market in the region of specialty glass. Scientists for whom a resident glassblower (see accompanying story) is not available can make to specialty Laboratory glassware with their creative ideas for laboratory glassware. Cal-Glass’s Cheatley recalls once being motivated to make glass hearts–not pieces of jewelry, but true replicas of human hearts through which medical researchers could practice placing catheters.
Bellco also provides specialty glass items. Sometimes, says Nicoll, things that are engineered for only one scientist turn out to have universal appeal making their way into Bellco’s catalog. “However,” says Nicoll, “it appears that when specialty markets grow into a certain level for the item, somebody comes along and definitely makes the item from plastic.” Most of the more creative requests that Bellco has filled remain a secret–they arose from scientist customers in the pharmaceutical industry and therefore are proprietary.
Cheatley wants new markets to overcome the competition due to plastics and automation. The company recently introduced an all-glass photochemical treatment system called the EcoStill, which extracts silver from spent photochemicals. While the stills are targeted primarily to be used inside the photoprocessing industry, Cheatley expects them to prove beneficial in biological labs as an alternative for evaporators. Unlike standard evaporators, the EcoStill, an enclosed system, fails to produce fumes, says Cheatley. And, he adds, the glass EcoStill is impervious on the chemicals that may damage standard stainless-steel photochemical processors.
But sometimes glass just can’t perform 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 as they are much easier to handle.
In recent times, plastics have already been developed with a lot of the properties where glass is valued. For example, polymethylpentene is definitely a clear plastic with optical qualities nearly equal to glass. Polymethylpentene is also autoclavable, and is employed for beakers, graduated cylinders, funnels, flasks, and a lot of other items traditionally created from glass. Another clear plastic proof against high temperatures is polycarbonate. Bel-Art markets a polycarbonate vacuum desiccator, utilized to remove moisture from a sample. A plastic desiccator has several advantages over the traditional glass apparatus, says George McClure, an engineer and senior corporate vice president in the company. Glass desiccators has to be quite heavy in order to avoid implosion from atmospheric air pressure, a potentially dangerous accident. The polycarbonate may be taken right 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 created to supplant glass, however. About 4 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 several of his customers complained that whenever they dropped their glass pipettes into the stainless-steel storage jar, the tips broke.
A chemist by training, Goldberg welded plastic bottoms to lengths of plastic pipe. “So, ironically, the first plastic item that Nalge made was designed in order to avoid glass pipettes from breaking,” says Gordon Hamnett, national accounts manager for Nalge. “Subsequently, the business developed lots of goods that were designed because glass products were breaking. We developed a brand of beakers, graduated cylinders, and volumetric flasks, modeled quite definitely right after the original glass benchware that had been available commercially.” Today, about 25 percent of Nalge’s plastic items are disposable; the others are made to be reusable.
The requirement for Pipette from the life science market continues to grow during the last decade, in accordance with Hamnett. For uses in cell biology labs, some plastics have already been designed to be a little more inert than glass, preventing cells from staying on the top. As well, plastic surfaces can be treated to ensure cells will stick and form a confluent layer more rapidly compared to what they would on glass. “You can form of pick and choose the characteristics of your several types of plastic resins in order to satisfy different demands inside the life science lab, where glass lacks the flexibility,” says Hamnett.
And plastic technology is continuing to evolve, allowing manufacturers to create products for specific needs that provide advantages over glass and over other sorts of plastic. Nalge includes a brand of fluoropolymer (Teflon) beakers which you can use for handling hydrofluoric acid, which “basically eats glass,” says Hamnett. The business is additionally tinkering with exposing a high-density polyethylene resin to fluorine gas to create a micro-thin layer, or “skin,” of fluorine, causing a surface that has a chemical resistance comparable to 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 which includes gas barrier properties that happen to be crucial in cell biology, where media has to be stored in a container that will minimize CO2 exchange,” says Hamnett.
But even as plastic displaces glass, new lab procedures as well as a growing conservation ethic are cutting into the application of both materials. Automation and improved analytical instrumentation–often requiring small samples–have reduced the need for laboratory glassware, based on LaGrotte. “Previously, a scientist or possibly a technician would do many things by hand, using several types of lab glassware,” he says. “Now there are numerous instruments that you simply feed samples to, and so they do all the analysis or mixing or whatever would have been completed by hand.”
While both glassware and filter paper now manufacture items, such as small sample vials, specifically automated use, Hamnett says that the lowering of the quantity of glassware useful for classic wet chemistry has become so excellent that the increase in automation-related items is not enough to balance it all out. Even though glassware and plasticware products are available today both in 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 we don’t are now living in a disposable world anymore,” says Pine. “A great deal of this plastic things which was previously regarded as disposable probably must be cleaned and reused.”
“Cheap” used to mean “disposable,” Pine says. While a reusable glass pipette cost $10, a pipette created to be disposable–made of thinner glass, with calibrations that happen to be painted on as opposed to etched in–might sell for just $1. The manufacturer would debate that it’s cheaper to throw away the disposable items than to take care of them and wash them, he explains. “But many of us within the academic labs have found most of the things which was developed to get disposable is really pretty good,” Pine says. “You can use it, by way of example, in many our undergraduate classes. Even though it doesn’t continue for 2 decades, it may possibly last for 5 years, and it’s probably economically advantageous.”