Plastic might be chosen over glass because it is more affordable. For the glass industry, it has had negative consequences: As demand drops, prices have gotten to go up. 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 carries a price,” says Nicoll. “Per-use cost is typically higher for a disposable compared to a reusable product, even with figuring in washing and preparation costs.”
Some companies have realized a niche market in the area of specialty glass. Scientists to whom a resident glassblower (see accompanying story) is just not available can change to specialty Microscope using their creative 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 now offers specialty glass items. Sometimes, says Nicoll, products which are engineered only for one scientist turn out to have universal appeal making their distance to Bellco’s catalog. “However,” says Nicoll, “it appears that when specialty markets grow into a certain level to have an item, somebody comes along and helps make the item from plastic.” Lots of the more creative requests that Bellco has filled remain a secret–they arose from scientist customers inside the pharmaceutical industry and so are proprietary.
Cheatley wants new markets to defeat your competitors caused by plastics and automation. The corporation recently introduced an all-glass photochemical treatment system referred to as EcoStill, which extracts silver from spent photochemicals. Whilst the stills are targeted primarily for usage in the photoprocessing industry, Cheatley expects those 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 will damage standard steel photochemical processors.
But sometimes glass just can’t complete the task. 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 usually manufactured from plastic as they are quicker to handle.
In recent times, plastics have been developed with many of the properties where glass is valued. As an example, polymethylpentene is definitely a clear plastic with optical qualities nearly similar to glass. Polymethylpentene is also autoclavable, and is also used for beakers, graduated cylinders, funnels, flasks, and many other items traditionally created from glass. Another clear plastic proof against high temperatures is polycarbonate. Bel-Art markets a polycarbonate vacuum desiccator, accustomed to remove moisture coming from a sample. A plastic desiccator has several positive aspects over the traditional glass apparatus, says George McClure, an engineer and senior corporate vice president from the company. Glass desiccators needs to be quite heavy in order to avoid implosion from atmospheric air pressure, a potentially dangerous accident. The polycarbonate could be taken down to a whole vacuum without danger of implosion, and won’t crack or chip if it is dropped. The plastic desiccator is much less expensive than glass, McClure adds.
Plastic wasn’t always designed to supplant glass, however. About forty years ago, the initial 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 a lot of of his customers complained that if they dropped their glass pipettes in 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 1st plastic item that Nalge made was created in order to avoid glass pipettes from breaking,” says Gordon Hamnett, national accounts manager for Nalge. “Subsequently, the organization developed plenty of goods that were designed because glass products were breaking. We created a collection of beakers, graduated cylinders, and volumetric flasks, modeled greatly after the original glass benchware that had been available commercially.” Today, about 25 percent of Nalge’s plastic products are disposable; the remainder are created to be reusable.
The interest in Pipette tip from the life science market has grown during the last decade, according to Hamnett. For uses in cell biology labs, some plastics happen to be made to be inert than glass, preventing cells from sticking to the outer lining. Concurrently, plastic surfaces can usually be treated so that cells will stick and form a confluent layer more rapidly than they would on glass. “It is possible to form of choose the features of your different 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 produce products for specific needs offering advantages over glass as well as over other kinds of plastic. Nalge carries a line of fluoropolymer (Teflon) beakers that you can use for handling hydrofluoric acid, which “basically eats glass,” says Hamnett. The organization is likewise experimenting with exposing a high-density polyethylene resin to fluorine gas to create a micro-thin layer, or “skin,” of fluorine, causing a surface which has a chemical resistance similar to Teflon’s, but is cheaper. Nalge also offers just introduced a disposable bottle made the exact same material as plastic soda pop bottles–polyethylene terephthalate (PET). “PET is actually a resin which has gas barrier properties that happen to be essential in cell biology, where media must be kept in a container which will minimize CO2 exchange,” says Hamnett.
But even as plastic displaces glass, new lab procedures along with a growing conservation ethic are cutting into the use of both materials. Automation and improved analytical instrumentation–often requiring small samples–have reduced the requirement for laboratory glassware, in accordance with LaGrotte. “In past times, a scientist or perhaps a technician would do lots of things by hand, using different types of lab glassware,” he says. “Now there are various instruments that you just feed samples to, and they also do every one of 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 reduction in the volume of glassware employed for classic wet chemistry has been so great that the increase in automation-related items is not enough to balance it. Despite the fact that glassware and plasticware items are available today within both reusable and disposable forms, Stanley Pine, professor of chemistry at California 36dexnpky University, L . A ., advocates reusing even disposable items. “I’m looking to teach everybody we don’t reside in a disposable world anymore,” says Pine. “Plenty of this plastic stuff that was previously looked at as disposable probably should be cleaned and reused.”
“Cheap” accustomed to mean “disposable,” Pine says. While a reusable glass pipette cost $10, a pipette created to be disposable–manufactured from thinner glass, with calibrations which can be painted on as opposed to etched in–might sell for just $1. The producer would reason that it’s cheaper to get rid of the disposable items than it is to handle them and wash them, he explains. “But a lot of us in the academic labs are discovering most of the things which is made to be disposable is actually excellent,” Pine says. “You can use it, by way of example, in a number of our undergraduate classes. Although it doesn’t last for 20 years, it might work for five-years, and it’s probably economically advantageous.”