Plastic Materials Selection
Picking the right plastic materials for use in scientific applications is key to achieving scientific success. Not all plastics are made with the rigors of the scientific lab in mind, and some commodity materials and molding additives may actually threaten your work with extractables that can compromise or destroy your research. That’s why Thermo Scientific Nalgene labware and containers are made from only top-quality laboratory, pharmaceutical, and food grade plastic resins.1 Our resins are selected to minimize additives and reduce potential leachables. We don’t use plasticizers2 or fillers. Nalgene resins have lower total ash content (a measure of inorganic impurities) than competitive brands.
Most of our resins are Drug Master File (DMF) registered and meet a number of regulatory specifications including USP Class VI, EP monographs and non-cytotoxicity (indicating compatibility with biological materials), 40 CFR Pt 177 and EU food contact directives, CONEG, RoHS, CA Prop 65, SARA Title III Sec 313, 21, and others. Most Nalgene plastic resins are free from animal derived compounds (ADCs), Bisphenol-A (BPA)3, phthalates2, and contact with latex.
Resin-specific regulatory data is available for use in critical applications under customer confidentiality by contacting Nalgene Regulatory Support.
1. Some PMP labware is not food grade. Please contact Nalgene Regulatory Support for inquiries about specific product claims.
2. Except PVC tubing. Nalgene PVC tubing contains DEHP, a phthalate plasticizer.
3. PC and PSF products contain BPA.
What is plastic?
Plastics are a family of high molecular weight synthetic materials made up of organic polymers and additives that stabilize the material.
For example, polyethylene polymer is a string of ethylene monomers.
- poly = many mono = one
- "mers"= organic building block (single units are "monomers")
- occurs in presence of heat, pressure, and a catalyst
Polymerize different monomers and get different polymers
|Monomer||Isopropylene||Styrene||Methylpentene||Fluorinated ethyl propylene|
Polymer properties vary with
- Chain length
- Chemically reactive sites in the molecular chain
- Chain branching
- Chain folding into 3-D structures
- 3-D polymer structure
Plastic products are molded from plastic resin beads
Plastic materials are synthesized in a chemical plant where they are then made into little beads or bulk powders termed resin. Companies like Thermo Fisher Scientific purchase plastic material in the form of resin beads and then mold those resins into products.
Plastic resin = polymer + additives + impurities
Necessary additives usually include heat stabilizers which allow the plastic material to be melted and molded into useful products without polymer degradation, and anti-oxidants which give the product shelf life by slowing polymer breakdown and the onset of signs of aging like discoloration, embrittlement, and cracking. The key to success in the laboratory is using as little of these additives as possible (and no unnecessary additives) to create usable products with the lowest possible potential for extractables. It is imperative that unnecessary additives like slip agents, fillers, and plasticizers not be present in plastics destined for laboratory use.
Material qualification is key to Nalgene quality and consistency. When making Nalgene labware and bottles, we choose our plastic resins very carefully, making sure they are of the highest quality for our laboratory customers. We qualify and specify the exact resins we’ll use for each product, and we don’t change those materials if we can help it. Where our competitors might buy the cheapest commodity resins on the market from one day to the next, we don’t do that. We stick with our high-quality tested and qualified resins for every lot of product we produce. In the event we have to make a change (for example, if the resin supplier makes a formulation change), we perform extensive material validation testing and notify customers who register in our customer notification database of the change.
Different kinds of plastic have different chemical and physical properties. And they can do different jobs in the laboratory. Some plastics like the polyethylenes (LDPE and HDPE), polypropylene (PP and PPCO), polymethylpentene (PMP), and the Teflons (PFA and FEP), are very compatible with a wide variety of laboratory chemicals and have many applications in the lab as bottles, beakers, graduated cylinders, pans, funnels, etc. Other plastics like polycarbonate (PC), polyethylene terephthalate G copolymer (PETG), and polystyrene (PS), offer glass-like clarity for easy viewing of labware contents and are used for making things like media bottles, desiccators, cryoboxes, and filterware, for example. Some plastics are autoclavable while others will melt. Some maintain their protective elastic properties at temperatures below freezing (–20°C, –80°C and even –250°C) while others become brittle at those temperatures and must be handled with more care.
You don’t have to be a polymer science expert to use plastic labware successfully in your lab and get the most value from your purchases. We provide resources to make it easy.
- Our online Nalgene Bottle and Carboy Selection Guide is interactive and application driven.
- Request a copy of the Nalgene Chemical Resistance Wall Chart for chemical compatibility ratings between each kind of plastic and over 250 specific chemicals.
- Want to talk to a real live person about your application needs? Call or email Nalgene Technical Support.
Request printed resources
- Break the Glass Habit Brochure
- Bottle and Carboy Selection Guide
- Plastic Properties Reference Magnet
- Plastic Labware Chemical Resistance Wall Poster