Beakers and bottles, dispensers and droppers, pipettes and Microscope. Labware such as this had been available in just one material–glass. A glass beaker may last indefinitely, so long as it isn’t dropped or heated too quickly or filled with certain highly reactive chemicals.
But can you imagine if a chemist should boil some chemical brew? Enter Pyrex, a borosilicate glass that could be extracted from hot to cold extremes without having to break.
And what about the researcher who needs a huge selection of small vials, and doesn’t would like to take the time or money to clean them between uses? Enter plastic–a material both cheap and disposable.
Then there’s the scientist who needs a beaker made of something as inert as you can. Behold Teflon, a polymer that reacts with only a few substances.
These are generally just some of the rapidly expanding choices obtainable in glassware and plasticware for scientific labs. Glass is actually a few millennia more than plastic, but both materials have distinct advantages. So when advances in glass and plastic technology continue, neither material seems at risk of becoming obsolete in the near future.
The oldest known glass objects are beads from Egypt that had been made around 2600 B.C. While no 4,000-year-old beakers have record, today’s bits of laboratory glassware, with care, could become museum pieces–or simply even be utilized–in the year 2600 A.D.
In recent history, new plastics have pushed their distance to the formerly glass-dominated domain of labware. Moreover, automation has reduced the role of glassware in many labs. But the glass industry has responded to advertise changes and is not willing to be pushed from the lab forever.
Reusable glassware hasn’t changed much throughout the years, according to Andrew LaGrotte, group marketing manager at Schott America Glass & Scientific Products Inc. of Yonkers, N.Y. “Whoever invented the standard shapes had some foresight, because they shapes remain used today,” he says. Scientists generally choose their labware in accordance with specific applications and private preference. “The particular basic vessel employed in the laboratory today, the beaker, is available in a variety of materials,” says John Babashak of Wheaton Scientific, situated in Millville, N.J. Chemists can decide beakers manufactured from a borosilicate glass like Pyrex, plastic, or even platinum, according to the quantity of heat and chemical resistance needed. Even beakers made of paper can be purchased, for paint chemists.
But overall, scientists’ need for Pipette has been reduced with the introduction of unbreakable or single- use disposable plastic items, says Douglas Nicoll, v . p . for technical services at Bellco Glass Inc. of Vineland, N.J. “This is especially true with commodity [standard] items like tubes, beakers, Erlenmeyer flasks, and pipettes.”
An evident drawback to glass when compared to plastic is its tendency to destroy. “People are careful during use to never break glass, simply because this might expose them to a hazardous situation, for example toxic agents, carcinogens, radioactive or biological hazards,” says Nicoll. This care fails to necessarily extend for some other 36dexnpky of labwork, however. “By and far, the glass washing and preparation areas break by far the most glass,” he notes.
Even though it isn’t a great answer to the trouble of breakage, most of the smaller specialty companies do offer glass repair. A high priced component of ammeter –an automated buret, as an example–can be repaired for approximately half the cost of a completely new one, says Bob Cheatley, president of Cal-Glass for Research Inc., a Costa Mesa, Calif.-based company that does repairs included in its specialty glass business. “[Repaired items] don’t look as good, but they’re as functional as once they were new.”
Despite the possibility of breakage, glass has several positive aspects over plastic. Solvents, by way of example, can dissolve some plastics, explains Nicoll. Some plastics are gas-permeable, so materials that may oxidize or experience a pH change are often saved in glass containers. Furthermore, glass is a lot more easily sterilized than most plastics, says Frank Nunziata, sales manager for Pequannock, N.J.’s Bel-Art Products; where there’s a sterility requirement, glass can be used most frequently.