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Plastic is oftentimes chosen over glass since it is less costly. For your glass industry, it has had negative consequences: As demand drops, prices have gotten to increase. But, unlike disposable plastics, glass might be reused. And although higher than the buying price of a similar plastic item, the price of a reusable glass item is diminished with each use. “Convenience carries a price,” says Nicoll. “Per-use cost is typically higher to get a disposable in comparison to a reusable product, despite figuring in washing and preparation costs.”
Some companies have found a niche market in the area of specialty glass. Scientists for whom a resident glassblower (see accompanying story) is just not available can make to specialty Microscope because of their ideas for laboratory glassware. Cal-Glass’s Cheatley recalls once being required to make glass hearts–not items 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, things that were created just for one scientist end up to obtain universal appeal and make their distance to Bellco’s catalog. “However,” says Nicoll, “apparently when specialty markets grow to a certain level for an item, somebody comes along and definitely makes the item from plastic.” A lot of the more creative requests that Bellco has filled remain a secret–they arose from scientist customers in the pharmaceutical industry and they are proprietary.
Cheatley wants new markets to conquer your competition due to plastics and automation. The corporation recently introduced an all-glass photochemical treatment system known as the EcoStill, which extracts silver from spent photochemicals. Even though the stills are targeted primarily for usage from the photoprocessing industry, Cheatley expects those to prove valuable in biological labs as an alternative for evaporators. Unlike standard evaporators, the EcoStill, an enclosed system, will not produce fumes, says Cheatley. And, he adds, the glass EcoStill is impervious towards the chemicals that will 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 usually made of plastic because they are quicker to handle.
In recent years, plastics have been developed with a lot of the properties for which glass is valued. For example, polymethylpentene is definitely a clear plastic with optical qualities nearly equal to glass. Polymethylpentene can also be autoclavable, and is useful for beakers, graduated cylinders, funnels, flasks, and a lot of other things traditionally made of glass. Another clear plastic immune to 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 across the traditional glass apparatus, says George McClure, an engineer and senior corporate v . p . in the company. Glass desiccators has to be quite heavy to prevent implosion from atmospheric air pressure, a potentially dangerous accident. The polycarbonate can be taken to a total vacuum without danger of implosion, and won’t crack or chip when it is dropped. The plastic desiccator is far less expensive than glass, McClure adds.
Plastic wasn’t always designed to supplant glass, however. About forty years ago, the 1st 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 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 created to prevent glass pipettes from breaking,” says Gordon Hamnett, national accounts manager for Nalge. “Subsequently, the business developed a great deal of products that were designed because glass products were breaking. We developed a brand of beakers, graduated cylinders, and volumetric flasks, modeled greatly once the original glass benchware which had been available commercially.” Today, about 25 percent of Nalge’s plastic products are disposable; the rest are created to be reusable.
The interest in Pipette tip from the life science market has grown in the last decade, based on Hamnett. For uses in cell biology labs, some plastics are already built to become more inert than glass, preventing cells from adhering to the outer lining. Simultaneously, plastic surfaces can be treated in order that 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 functions of your various kinds of plastic resins to fulfill different demands in 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 also over other sorts 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 trying out exposing a very high-density polyethylene resin to fluorine gas to produce a micro-thin layer, or “skin,” of fluorine, creating a surface that includes a chemical resistance comparable to Teflon’s, but is less costly. Nalge also offers just introduced a disposable bottle made the exact same material as plastic soda pop bottles–polyethylene terephthalate (PET). “PET is a resin that has gas barrier properties which are essential in cell biology, where media should be kept in a container that 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 need for laboratory glassware, as outlined by LaGrotte. “In the past, a scientist or even a technician would do many things yourself, using several types of lab glassware,” he says. “Now there are many instruments that you simply feed samples to, and they do each of the analysis or mixing or whatever might have been completed by hand.”
While both glassware and Skeleton model now manufacture items, for example small sample vials, particularly for automated use, Hamnett states that the decline in the volume of glassware useful for classic wet chemistry continues to be so excellent that the rise in automation-related items is not enough to balance it out. Though glassware and plasticware items are now available in reusable and disposable forms, Stanley Pine, professor of chemistry at California 36dexnpky University, La, advocates reusing even disposable items. “I’m looking to teach everybody that people don’t live in a disposable world anymore,” says Pine. “Plenty of this plastic things which was previously regarded 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 made to be disposable–made from thinner glass, with calibrations which can be painted on rather than etched in–might sell for only $1. The producer would debate 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 inside the academic labs have realized most of the items that was made to get disposable is in fact very good,” Pine says. “It can be used, for example, in several our undergraduate classes. Although it doesn’t last for 2 decades, it might work for five years, and it’s probably economically advantageous.”