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Polystyrene is rigid and non-toxic, with excellent dimensional stability and good chemical resistance to aqueous solutions, but limited resistance to solvents. This glass-clear material is commonly used for disposable laboratory products.

Products made of polystyrene are brittle at ambient temperature and may crack or break if dropped from bench height. Polystyrene is not autoclavable, but can be sterilized by ethylene oxide gas sterilization or gamma irradiation and is often sold pre-sterilized by one of these methods.

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Polystyrene, with its aromatic ring off the hydrocarbon chain, is a very linear molecule, which facilitates surface treatment. 

  • Energy treatment
    Energetic surface oxidation improves polystyrene surface hydrophilicity and results in generation of both hydroxyl and carboxyl functional groups. The presence of these hydrophilic groups facilitates the protein unfolding needed for cell attachment. This process is used for treating Thermo Scientific Nunclon Delta tissue culture surfaces for adherent cell growth on culture dishes.

  • Polymer graft
    Covalent binding of polymers to polystyrene enables special functions to the cell culture surface (e.g. super-hydrophilic polymer prevents cells from adhering to Low Cell Binding and HydroCell surfaces; thermoresponsive polymer enables enzyme-free detachment of cells by reducing the external culture temperature).
  • Untreated polystyrene surfaces are hydrophobic, preventing cell adhesion. Untreated surfaces are useful for non-adherent cell culture, disposable filtration units, and other products where adhesion of molecules or cells is unnecessary or undesirable.
  • Surfaces can also be modified for passive adsorption, covalent bonding, or affinity capture surfaces for creation of immunology surfaces for diagnostic applications.

Non-cytotoxic, clear PS is commonly used for disposable lab products such as filter units and 96-well plates. Having very few additives, PS is an excellent choice for high-purity products for tissue culture applications. The surface of PS can be modified for various applications in immunology and molecular biology, as well as cultured cell growth.  

Popular products made from Polystryrene (PS)

Filtration Units

Microwell Plates

Tissue Culture Dishes

Serological pipets

Physical properties: Nalgene PS






HDT[1]: 82–96℃

Max Use[2]: 90℃

Brittleness[12]: 20℃


UV light: poor resistance

Transparency: clear and colorless

Specific gravity: 1.05

Microwave[13]: no

cc.-mil/ 100in2-24hr.-atm
N2: 20–25
O2: 300–400
CO2: 1000–1500

cc.-mm/ m2-24 hr.-Bar
N2: 7.8–9.7
O2: 116–155
CO2: 388–582

Autoclave: no

EtO: yes

Dry heat: no

Radiation: yes

Disinfectants: some

Non-cytotoxic[6]: yes

Suitable for food & bev use[7]: yes

Regulation Part 21 CFR: 177.1640

Chemical compatibility

The following table contains general use exposure ratings at 20°C. The ability of plastic materials to resist chemical attack and damage is dependent also on temperature, length of exposure to the chemical, and added stresses such as centrifugation. For more detailed chemical resistance ratings for Nalgene products and materials, please consult the resources referenced at the bottom of this page.

Class General rating
Acids, dilute or weak E
Acids*, strong and concentrated  F
Alcohols, aliphatic G
Aldehydes F
Bases/alkali E
Esters N
Hydrocarbons, aliphatic F
Hydrocarbons, aromatic N
Hydrocarbons, halogenated N
Ketones, aromatic N
Oxidizing agents, strong G

*Except for oxidizing acids; for oxidizing acids, see "Oxidizing agents, strong."

 E   30 days of constant exposure causes no damage. Plastic may even tolerate for years.
   Little or no damage after 30 days of constant exposure to the reagent.
   Some effect after 7 days of constant exposure to the reagent. Depending on the plastic, the effect may be crazing, cracking, loss of strength, or discoloration.
 N   Not recommended for continuous use. Immediate damage may occur including severe crazing, cracking, loss of strength, discoloration, deformation, dissolution, or permeation loss.

Thermo Scientific products made from Polysulfone (PSF)

Application tips for Nalgene PS products

Polystyrene labware is brittle at room temperature and will crack or break if it receives an impact; unlike many other labware polymers, PS labware must be handled with care to prevent damage and loss of research materials.

Polystyrene is recyclable. Polystyrene labware products may be recycled if they are free from contaminating laboratory materials.

Polystyrene is not autoclavable; labware pieces will melt down in the autoclave. Autoclaving may be used to neutralize biological contaminants and simultaneously reduce the volume of plastic waste prior to biological waste disposal of PS culture vessels.

[1]. Heat Deflection Temperature is the temperature at which an injection molded bar deflects 0.1” when placed under 66 psig (ASTM D648) of pressure. Materials may be used above Heat Deflection Temperatures in non-stress applications; see Max. Use Temp.
[2]. Max. Use Temp. °C: this is related to the maximum continuous use temperature, ductile/brittle temperature and glass transition temperature, and represents the highest temperature at which the polymer can be exposed for the matter of minutes to 2 hours where there is little or no loss of strength.
[4]. STERILIZATION: Autoclaving (121°C, 15 psig for 20 minutes)—Clean and rinse items with distilled water before autoclaving. (Always completely disengage thread before autoclaving.) Certain chemicals which have no appreciable effect on resins at room temperature may cause deterioration at autoclaving temperatures unless removed with distilled water beforehand.
     EtO Gas—Ethylene Oxide: 100% EtO, EtO:Nitrogen mixture, EtO:HCFC mixture
     Dry Heat—exposure to 160°C for 120 minutes without stress/load on the polymer parts
     Disinfectants—Benzalkonium chloride, formalin/formaldehyde, hydrogen peroxide, ethanol, etc.
     Radiation—gamma or beta irradiation at 25 kGy (2.5 MRad) with unstabilized plastic
[6]. “Yes” indicates the resin has been determined to be non-cytotoxic, based on USP and ASTM biocompatibility testing standards utilizing an MEM elution technique with WI38 human diploid lung cell line.
[7]. Resins meet requirements of CFR21 section of Food Additives Amendment of the Federal Food and Drug Act. End users are responsible for validation of compliance for specific containers used in conjunction with their particular applications. 
[12]. The brittleness teperature is the temperature at which an item made from the resin may break or cracked if dropped. This is not the lowest use temperature if care is exercised in use and handling.
[13]. Ratings based on 5-minute tests using 600 watts of power on exposed, empty labware. CAUTION: Do not exceed Max. Use Temp., or expose labware to chemicals which heating will cause to attack the plastic or be rapidly absorbed.


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Technical support

For assistance choosing products appropriate for your application, please speak with a Nalgene technical support representative team by phone at +1-585-586-8800 or (1-800-625-4327 US toll free), or email your request to

In Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom please contact technical support by phone at +800-1234-9696 (toll free) or +49-6184-90-6321, or email your request to

Regulatory support: for regulatory documentation of product or material claims, please contact Nalgene regulatory support at