Traditionally, glass and steel lab ware had been the choice of laboratories all over the world. Catering to the demands of laboratory scientists, the best possible containers are made available that serve their purpose. While the glass was the first preference due to its significant properties like transparency, lesser reactivity with reagents and economic costs, the lab industry is now switching to more plastic. Let’s know more about plastic and glass and their comparative use in laboratories.
Glass Has its Own Benefits
Formerly, glass dominated the domain. Right from Petri-dishes to dispensers and containers, everything was in the glass. It has been so popular due to its property of reusability. Scientists can wash, sterilise and re-use their glass equipment which saves them from the effort and cost of buying it repeatedly. Another benefit that still makes glass necessary in some lab experiments is that it is a safer option than plastic when it comes to reactivity with certain materials. For instance, some solvents can dissolve plastic or some gases are permeable to plastic or can even undergo a pH change. In such cases, glass is preferred. Moreover, new-age glassware is being manufactured for specialty labs too.
Why is Plastic Usage More Common Now?
With recent advances, plastic has gradually replaced glass in labs and is now more commonly the preferred material in lab equipment. Plastic labware now contains new types of non-cytotoxic resins. Thus, it does not interact with organic life forms. This is important as pharmaceutical as well microbiology labs do not want microorganism interaction of cultures with container materials. Another advantage of plastic is that it has a leachable and extractable profile. Thus it does not affect samples. The resilience of plastics is higher which means that they are more shock-absorbent, a property which protects plastic container when they are accidentally bumped or dropped. This promotes scientist’s safety, sample preservation and reduced costs of breakage and replacement.
Plastic flasks and containers are less cumbersome to carry due to their lightweight. Labs also prefer to use these lightweight plastic containers to reduce delivery costs. If it is a robotic-assisted lab, the lighter plastic container has lesser chances of being stressed and damaged preventing unwanted leakage and research halts.
With evolving scientific advancements, plastic labware serves all purposes and can be wisely chosen as per lab requirements and up-scaling planned. However, it must also be noted that it is not an eco-friendly alternative.
Selection Criteria to Consider
Labs should look for essential features before purchasing labware. Containers that come with a ‘leak proof’ guarantee are safer if you want to avoid leakage of bottles stored in refrigerators or freezers. Standard bottles come with certified closure seals and have undergone leak testing during manufacturing. Avoid corrosive cap liners and look for a strong thread design and a valve seal. Chemists and lab managers should take an informed decision regarding the type of material to be chosen as plastics come in different grades and qualities. Resins that contain minimal additives and are minimally leachable should be selected. Recyclability is another factor to consider.