PPCO

Similar to polyethylene and polypropylene, polypropylene copolymer is classified as a polyolefin and is a high-molecular weight hydrocarbon. PPCO is an essentially linear copolymer with repeated sequences of ethylene and propylene and combines some of the advantages of both polymers.

PPCO is autoclavable, offers much of the high-temperature performance of polypropylene, and provides some of the low-temperature strength and flexibility of polyethylene. Like all polyolefins, PPCO is non-toxic, non-contaminating, and lighter than water. PPCO is milky-white translucent in appearance.  

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PPCO easily withstands exposure to nearly all chemicals at room temperature for up to 24 hours. Strong oxidizing agents eventually cause embrittlement. PPCO can be damaged by long exposure to UV light.

Due to its protective elastic properties, resilience to impact, and low cost, labware made from PPCO is an excellent alternative to borosilicate glassware which is more likely to shatter and cause personal injury or loss of research materials. PPCO labware plays an important role in lab safety programs and is growing in worldwide  use.


Polypropylene copolymer is used to make a huge variety of Nalgene labware including bottles, beakers, graduated cylinders, Erlenmeyer flasks, centrifuge tubes, and many other items where autoclavability and long-term chemical compatibility are key requirements. You’ll find a wide variety of Nalgene PPCO bottles to choose from. Use the Nalgene Bottle and Carboy Selection Guide to quickly find the bottle shape, size, and packaging configuration you’re looking for.

Popular products made from polypropylene copolymer (PPCO)

Physical properties

Temperature

Physics

Permeability

Sterilization[4]

Regulatory

HDT[1]: 90℃

Max Use[2]: 121℃

Brittleness[12]: –40℃

UV Light: fair resistance

Semi-rigid

Translucent

Microwaveable[13]: marginal[3]

Specific gravity: 0.90

cc.-mil/ 100in2-24hr.-atm
N2: 45
O2: 200
CO2: 650

cc.-mm/ m2-24 hr.-Bar
N2: 17.48
O2: 77.71
CO2: 252.56

Autoclaveable: yes

ETO: yes

Dry heat: no

Radiation: No. Discoloration & embrittlement unless stabilized

Disinfectants: yes

Non-cytotoxic[6]: Yes

Suitable for food & bev use[7]: yes

Regulation Part 21 CFR: 177.1580


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  G
Alcohols, aliphatic E
Aldehydes G
Bases/alkali E
Esters G
Hydrocarbons, aliphatic G
Hydrocarbons, aromatic N
Hydrocarbons, halogenated N
Ketones, aromatic N
Oxidizing agents, strong F

*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.

Nalgene products made from Polypropylene Copolymer (PPCO)

Application tips for Nalgene PPCO products

While the impact resistance of polypropylene copolymer makes it an attractive alternative to glass in the lab, there are some tips you should know to ensure you get the most out of your PPCO labware and use it successfully in lab applications.

Material identification
First, you’ll want to be sure you know what kind of plastic your labware is made from before subjecting it to more demanding lab processes like autoclaving or aggressive chemical exposure. Many Nalgene products have the material identification code molded into the product to help you determine the material of construction. For example, most Nalgene bottles have the material code (“PP” or “PPCO” for example) molded into the bottom of the bottle. Beakers have the material silk screened on the side. And many labware items have the code molded in somewhere on the underside. By knowing what plastic material your product is made from, you can make informed choices regarding appropriate applications in which it can be used. 

Be sure to follow all autoclave instructions provided with your PPCO labware products or contact technical support for detailed autoclave instructions for your specific products. Autoclaving PPCO does result in subtle contraction and shrinking of the PPCO material upon cooling which can affect the accuracy of volumetric measuring devices like volumetric flasks and graduated cylinders.

Plastic aging
PPCO labware will age over time. If labware pieces are permanently discolored (yellow, brown, pink, etc.), if you see cracks or spiderweb-like “crazing” beginning to occur, it’s probably time to replace your old labware. A squeeze of your Nalgene PPCO bottle should feel stiff but pliable; if you instead hear or feel crackling, immediately retire your bottle and replace it to prevent failure in use. Centrifugware should be visually inspected before each use and similarly retired at the first sign of any crack formation or crazing. Repeated autoclaving will accelerate the aging process and necessitate more frequent replacement. To slow the aging process and prolong the life of your PPCO labware, store products in a cabinet out of direct exposure with UV light (including overhead indoor lighting), use only with compatible chemicals, and wash with a pH-neutral detergent like Nalgene L900.

Recyclability
PPCO products are recyclable in many communities (recycle code 5). Most Nalgene PPCO products are reusable and will last a long time under typical lab conditions if used appropriately, but you can recycle them in many communities at the end of their lifetime as long as they are thoroughly cleaned for safe handling.  

Autoclaving

Autoclaving
Polypropylene copolymer labware and bottles are autoclavable. The recommended autoclave cycle for empty containers is 121°C at 15 psi for 20 minutes. Care must be taken to allow free air circulation into and out of vessels during the autoclave cycle, especially during the venting and cooling stages. If the container is not properly vented, collapse or implosion (sometimes confused with melting) can occur.

When autoclaving bottles and carboys, the cap threads must be completely disengaged from the container; the cap can be set loosely over the mouth opening at a rogue angle to ensure the threads don’t inadvertently engage. Once the container is completely cooled, the cap can be aseptically tipped into place and tightened down.


Footnotes:
[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.
[3]. The plastic will absorb and retain significant amounts of heat resulting in an unexpectedly hot surface.
[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 temperature 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.

 

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 technicalsupport@thermofisher.com.

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 techsupport.labproducts.eu@thermofisher.com.

Regulatory support: for regulatory documentation of product or material claims, please contact Nalgene regulatory support at RocRegSupport@thermofisher.com.

Resources

For chemical compatibility ratings by chemical, temperature, and length of exposure, use the  Nalgene General Labware Chemical Compatibility Guide 

For centrifugeware chemical compatibility ratings, please use ONLY the Centrifuge Ware Chemical Resistance
Table 

Additional resources
  • Break the Glass Habit Brochure
  • Bottle and Carboy Selection Guide
  • Plastic Properties Reference Magnet
  • Plastic Labware Chemical Resistance Wall Poster

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