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Glass versus Plastic

As scientific glassblowers, we recall with trepidation the famous line in the movie "The Graduate" starring young Dustin Hoffman; Mr. McGuire has one word of advice: "plastics". Well.....
We'd be remiss if we didn't bring to your attention some recent research:

"Thousands of scientists could be unwittingly ruining their own experiments merely by using standard plastic lab equipment, according to a new study."
by Daniel Cressey, Published online 6 November 2008 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2008.121

He is referencing research done by Dr.Andrew Holt of the University of Alberta.

"BREVIA
Bioactive Contaminants Leach from Disposable Laboratory Plasticware.

Disposable plasticware such as test tubes, pipette tips, and multiwell assay or culture plates are used routinely in most biological research laboratories. Manufacturing of plastics requires the inclusion of numerous chemicals to enhance stability, durability, and performance. Some lubricating (slip) agents, exemplified by oleamide, also occur endogenously in humans and are biologically active, and cationic biocides are included to prevent bacterial colonization of the plastic surface. We demonstrate that these manufacturing agents leach from laboratory plasticware into a standard aqueous buffer, dimethyl sulfoxide, and methanol and can have profound effects on proteins and thus on results from bioassays of protein function. These findings have far-reaching implications for the use of disposable plasticware in biological research."

In addition to oleamide, Dr Holt cites quaternary ammonium biocides as compounds having an affect on the activity of receptors, enzymes, and ion channels. These chemicals are routinely used in the manufacturing of plastics such as polypropylene disposables.

 Plastics have an enormously beneficial role to play, but they are increasingly controversial. And sometimes, glass remains the unequivocal best choice. Having devoted our lives and livelihoods to the understanding of glass, we're here to say that the next time you need some labware, reaction vessels, electrochemical cells, or deep ocean collection chambers, we have one word of advice for you....
GLASS!

 

But we do recognize that some things are
just better in plastic.

These are small Erlenmeyer flasks which we produced for a biofuels research client who needed to replace the plastic ones (the blue ugly one).

Forty liter multiport glass reactor

 

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