Special Report: Glassware, Plasticware Compete In Labs

Beakers and bottles, dispensers and droppers, pipettes and petri dishes. Labware such as this used to be available in a single material--glass. A glass beaker may last indefinitely, so long as it isn't dropped or heated too fast or filled with certain highly reactive chemicals. But what if a chemist needs to boil some chemical brew? Enter Pyrex, a borosilicate glass that can be taken from hot to cold extremes without breaking. And what about the researcher who needs hundreds of small vials, a

Laurel Joyce
May 26, 1991
Beakers and bottles, dispensers and droppers, pipettes and petri dishes. Labware such as this used to be available in a single material--glass. A glass beaker may last indefinitely, so long as it isn't dropped or heated too fast or filled with certain highly reactive chemicals.

But what if a chemist needs to boil some chemical brew? Enter Pyrex, a borosilicate glass that can be taken from hot to cold extremes without breaking.

And what about the researcher who needs hundreds of small vials, and doesn't want to spend the time or money to wash them between uses? Enter plastic--a material both cheap and disposable.

And then there's the scientist who needs a beaker made of something as inert as possible. Behold Teflon, a polymer that reacts with very few substances.

These are just a few of the rapidly expanding choices available in glassware and plasticware for scientific labs. Glass is...