Plastic may also be chosen over glass because it is more affordable. For your glass industry, this has had negative consequences: As demand drops, prices have had to go up. But, unlike disposable plastics, glass may be reused. And although greater than the price of a comparable plastic item, the buying price of a reusable glass item is diminished with each use. “Convenience has a price,” says Nicoll. “Per-use price is typically higher for a disposable in comparison to a reusable product, despite figuring in washing and preparation costs.”
Some companies have found a distinct segment in the area of specialty glass. Scientists for whom a resident glassblower (see accompanying story) will not be available can turn to specialty Microscope because 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 by which medical researchers could practice placing catheters.
Bellco also provides specialty glass items. Sometimes, says Nicoll, items which are specially designed just for one scientist prove to possess universal appeal and then make their distance to Bellco’s catalog. “However,” says Nicoll, “apparently when specialty markets grow to some certain level for an item, somebody comes along and helps to make the item from plastic.” Lots of the more creative requests that Bellco has filled remain a secret–they arose from scientist customers from the pharmaceutical industry and are proprietary.
Cheatley wants new markets to beat your competition due to plastics and automation. The business recently introduced an all-glass photochemical treatment system referred to as EcoStill, which extracts silver from spent photochemicals. Whilst the stills are targeted primarily to use in the photoprocessing industry, Cheatley expects these people to prove valuable 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 on the chemicals that will damage standard stainless-steel photochemical processors.
But sometimes glass just can’t perform the job. As an 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 created from plastic as they are easier to handle.
Lately, plastics have already been developed with many of the properties for which glass is valued. For instance, polymethylpentene is certainly a clear plastic with optical qualities nearly equivalent to glass. Polymethylpentene can also be autoclavable, and is employed for beakers, graduated cylinders, funnels, flasks, and several other things traditionally created from glass. Another clear plastic immune to high temperatures is polycarbonate. Bel-Art markets a polycarbonate vacuum desiccator, used to remove moisture coming from a sample. A plastic desiccator has several advantages over the traditional glass apparatus, says George McClure, an engineer and senior corporate v . p . of your company. Glass desiccators must be quite heavy to avoid implosion from atmospheric air pressure, a potentially dangerous accident. The polycarbonate might be taken right down to a total 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 meant to supplant glass, however. About 40 years ago, the initial product of Rochester, N.Y.-based Nalge Co. was actually a plastic pipette jar. Nalge’s founder, Emanuel Goldberg, was really a manufacturer’s representative selling pipettes, and a lot of of his customers complained that if they dropped their glass pipettes in the stainless-steel storage jar, the ideas broke.
A chemist by training, Goldberg welded plastic bottoms to lengths of plastic pipe. “So, ironically, the 1st plastic item that Nalge made was made to avoid glass pipettes from breaking,” says Gordon Hamnett, national accounts manager for Nalge. “Subsequently, the company developed a lot of products that were designed because glass products were breaking. We designed a line of beakers, graduated cylinders, and volumetric flasks, modeled significantly once the original glass benchware which was available commercially.” Today, about 25 percent of Nalge’s plastic merchandise is disposable; the others are designed to be reusable.
The interest in Pipette from the life science market has expanded over the last decade, as outlined by Hamnett. For uses in cell biology labs, some plastics happen to be designed to be a little more inert than glass, preventing cells from sticking to the outer lining. Concurrently, plastic surfaces can usually be treated to ensure cells will stick and form a confluent layer more rapidly than they would on glass. “You can type of select the options of the different kinds of plastic resins to satisfy different demands in the life science lab, where glass lacks the flexibility,” says Hamnett.
And plastic technology is continuing to evolve, allowing manufacturers to produce products for specific needs that provide advantages over glass as well as over other types of plastic. Nalge features a brand of fluoropolymer (Teflon) beakers which you can use for handling hydrofluoric acid, which “basically eats glass,” says Hamnett. The company is additionally trying out exposing an increased-density polyethylene resin to fluorine gas to make a micro-thin layer, or “skin,” of fluorine, producing a surface that has a chemical resistance much like Teflon’s, but is less expensive. Nalge also provides just introduced a disposable bottle made the exact same material as plastic soda pop bottles–polyethylene terephthalate (PET). “PET is really a resin containing gas barrier properties that happen to be crucial in cell biology, where media has to be saved in a container which will minimize CO2 exchange,” says Hamnett.
But even while plastic displaces glass, new lab procedures as well as a growing conservation ethic are cutting into using both materials. Automation and improved analytical instrumentation–often requiring small samples–have reduced the demand for laboratory glassware, as outlined by LaGrotte. “Before, a scientist or even a technician would do several things yourself, using different kinds of lab glassware,” he says. “Now there are numerous instruments that you just feed samples to, and so they 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, including small sample vials, specifically for automated use, Hamnett states that the lowering of the quantity of glassware useful for classic wet chemistry has become so excellent that the rise in automation-related items is not enough to balance it out. Despite the fact that glassware and plasticware items are available today in reusable and disposable forms, Stanley Pine, professor of chemistry at California 36dexnpky University, La, advocates reusing even disposable items. “I’m trying to teach everybody that people don’t are living in a disposable world anymore,” says Pine. “A lot of this plastic items that was once regarded as disposable probably ought to be cleaned and reused.”
“Cheap” utilized to mean “disposable,” Pine says. While a reusable glass pipette cost $10, a pipette made to be disposable–made from thinner glass, with calibrations which can be painted on as opposed to etched in–might sell for only $1. The manufacturer would debate that it’s cheaper to discard the disposable items than to take care of them and wash them, he explains. “But many of us inside the academic labs are finding the vast majority of stuff that was developed to become disposable is in fact pretty good,” Pine says. “It can be used, for instance, in several our undergraduate classes. Although it doesn’t last for two decades, it may continue for 5yrs, and it’s probably economically advantageous.”