Stressing the importance of using the best glassware is never enough when it comes to lab safety. A 2014 incident at the chemistry lab of the award-winning Beacon School at Manhattan, USA, was linked to methanol streaks in a laboratory flask which was later used for an experiment for burning nitrates. Two tenth graders suffered third-degree burns in the accident. The gruesome accident underlines the significance of using streak-free good quality glassware in laboratories.
Lab risk assessment statistics conducted by the Journal ‘Nature’, blames the improper use of lab equipment as the main contributor to lab accidents, apart from general failure to follow the protocols. It attributes 81 percent of these accidents to teaching labs, 13 percent to research labs and industry, related mishaps to 6 percent. A zero-tolerance approach to the quality of glassware is essential in science labs to ensure lab safety and security.
Glassware used in laboratories should meet high-quality standards to maintain this safety. When investing in lab glassware, the focus should be centered mainly on the thermal shock withstanding ability and the chemical inertness of the equipment. Apart from these obvious criteria which are known to laymen as desirable qualities for lab glassware, features such as the volumetric precision, stability imparted with the physical design and a streak-free finish add to the value of the equipment. Thin walls are a desirable feature of volumetric equipment like burettes, pipettes and measuring flasks, as it considerably reduces nuances in reading caused by Parallax errors.
With a significantly low thermal expansion coefficient, pure Borosilicate glass is the best material for making labware as it is more resilient to thermal shocks than the ordinary soda-lime glassware. Soda-lime glassware is prone to breakage and deformation when subjected to sudden temperature changes. The excellent optical characteristics of the glass fused with Boric oxide together with oxides of Potassium, Zinc, and Aluminium are also ideal for use in optical slides and lenses. These unique properties are accredited to the presence of Boric oxide which replaces some of the usually found oxides in the glass mixture, enhancing the binding forces within the glass material.
Borosilicate glass also exhibits high levels of chemical stability and is inert to corrosion from most substances. Borosilicate glassware is known to react only with highly corrosive Hydrofluoric acid, Phosphoric acid in very high concentration and caustic mixtures at sustained high temperatures. Signs of Borosilicate glassware corrosion are visible as a milky tan on the walls of the equipment which reduces its transparency. Borosil, the brand name synonymous with high-quality Borosilicate glass, is a pioneer in the research, innovation, and manufacturing of high-quality glassware. The advanced molding techniques incorporated in manufacturing Borosil products give the labware a uniform thin wall construction which adds to the thermal stability of the product. Further, the edges are annealed to give extra toughness which prevents chipping.
Besides choosing the right glassware, care must also be taken to choose the right equipment for the experiment. When using glassware for heating, the vessels should be vented to avoid over-pressurization which may lead to potential explosions.Though Borosil glass can be operated on temperatures as high as 250 degree celsius extra care must be taken as the glassware approaches its higher limit of temperature. The Borosil device must be handled so as to reduce its thermal shock at these temperatures.Care must be taken to loosen the stoppers so as to prevent critical explosions during autoclaving. Routine inspection of equipment must be made a standard procedure and the lightest cracks should be noted and the device must be shelved separately. They should be properly disposed of periodically after segregating them in a marked container as Borosil glassware have high melting point compared to ordinary glassware. Borosil glassware equipment is fully recyclable reducing the adverse impact on the environment.
Laboratories being the venues that open up new frontiers in research, often have to meet unpredictable scenarios. A lab must be equipped with the most modern glassware to maintain a high level of precision and durability. In fact, for a lab to get an ISO 9001 certification in India, it must comply to use Borosil certified glassware. Borosil labware has been extensively used in India, USA, and the Netherlands for over five decades with a high retention rate of 98 percent. However, it is absolutely worthy to dedicate a few minutes to examine and ensure that the glassware used in labs is free from scratches, etchings, and minute cracks. Any defective equipment should not be used in any case for scientific procedures. A happy glassware rack always ensures a safe lab.