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Plastic is sometimes chosen over glass as it is less costly. To the glass industry, this has had negative consequences: As demand drops, prices experienced to go up. But, unlike disposable plastics, glass could be reused. And although higher than the price tag on a comparable plastic item, the buying price of a reusable glass item is diminished with each use. “Convenience includes a price,” says Nicoll. “Per-use expense is typically higher for a disposable in comparison to a reusable product, even with figuring in washing and preparation costs.”

Some companies have found a distinct segment in the community of specialty glass. Scientists to whom a resident glassblower (see accompanying story) is not available can turn to specialty Laboratory glassware using their creative ideas for laboratory glassware. Cal-Glass’s Cheatley recalls once being inspired 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, items which are specially designed for just one scientist turn out to obtain universal appeal making their distance to Bellco’s catalog. “However,” says Nicoll, “it seems that when specialty markets grow to your certain level for an item, somebody comes along and helps to make the item from plastic.” A lot of the more creative requests that Bellco has filled remain a secret–they arose from scientist customers from the pharmaceutical industry and therefore are proprietary.

Cheatley wants new markets to conquer 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. Even though the stills are targeted primarily for usage within the photoprocessing industry, Cheatley expects them to prove useful 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 to the chemicals that can damage standard stainless-steel photochemical processors.

But sometimes glass just can’t get the job done. For instance, “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.

In recent years, plastics happen to be developed with most of the properties where glass is valued. As an example, polymethylpentene is an extremely clear plastic with optical qualities nearly equivalent to glass. Polymethylpentene can also be autoclavable, and it is utilized for beakers, graduated cylinders, funnels, flasks, and a lot of other items traditionally created from glass. Another clear plastic resistant against 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 within the traditional glass apparatus, says George McClure, an engineer and senior corporate v . p . in the company. Glass desiccators should be quite heavy to prevent implosion from atmospheric air pressure, a potentially dangerous accident. The polycarbonate might be taken as a result of a total vacuum without danger of implosion, and won’t crack or chip when it is dropped. The plastic desiccator is much 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. was a plastic pipette jar. Nalge’s founder, Emanuel Goldberg, was actually a manufacturer’s representative selling pipettes, and several of his customers complained that whenever they dropped their glass pipettes in to the stainless steel storage jar, the guidelines 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 stop glass pipettes from breaking,” says Gordon Hamnett, national accounts manager for Nalge. “Subsequently, the organization developed plenty of items that were designed because glass products were breaking. We developed a brand of beakers, graduated cylinders, and volumetric flasks, modeled quite definitely following the original glass benchware which was available commercially.” Today, about 25 % of Nalge’s plastic items are disposable; others are supposed to be reusable.

The requirement for Pipette tip within the life science market has expanded within the last decade, in accordance with Hamnett. For uses in cell biology labs, some plastics have already been created to be a little more inert than glass, preventing cells from sticking with the surface. As well, plastic surfaces can be treated in order that cells will stick and form a confluent layer more rapidly than they would on glass. “You may form of select the characteristics from the various kinds of plastic resins to satisfy different demands inside the life science lab, where glass does not have the flexibleness,” says Hamnett.

And plastic technology is continuing to evolve, allowing manufacturers to help make products for specific needs offering advantages over glass and over other types of plastic. Nalge carries a brand of fluoropolymer (Teflon) beakers that can be used for handling hydrofluoric acid, which “basically eats glass,” says Hamnett. The organization can also be tinkering with exposing a high-density polyethylene resin to fluorine gas to create a micro-thin layer, or “skin,” of fluorine, creating a surface that includes 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 which can be essential in cell biology, where media must be kept in a container that can 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 very small samples–have reduced the requirement for laboratory glassware, in accordance with LaGrotte. “In past times, a scientist or even a technician would do many things by hand, using several types of lab glassware,” he says. “Now there are many instruments that you just feed samples to, and they do every one of the analysis or mixing or whatever could have been done by hand.”

While both glassware and filter paper now manufacture items, for example small sample vials, particularly for automated use, Hamnett states that the reduction in the level of glassware useful for classic wet chemistry is so great that the increase in automation-related items is not enough to balance it all out. Although glassware and plasticware merchandise is now available both in reusable and disposable forms, Stanley Pine, professor of chemistry at California 36dexnpky University, L . A ., advocates reusing even disposable items. “I’m trying to teach everybody that people don’t are now living in a disposable world anymore,” says Pine. “A great deal of this plastic items that was once regarded 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–created from thinner glass, with calibrations that happen to 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 deal with them and wash them, he explains. “But many people in the academic labs have found a lot of the items that was developed being disposable is in fact pretty decent,” Pine says. “It can be used, for example, in a lot of our undergraduate classes. While it doesn’t continue for 2 decades, it may work for five years, and it’s probably economically advantageous.”