Many rotary evaporators come with a choice of coated or standard glassware. A coated container is typically a standard vessel that has an additional plastisol layer applied under heat.
Common concerns when making a decision include the integrity of the coated containers and whether they offer enough real benefits over standard glassware.
Indeed, safety coated glassware is popular, mainly for the fact that it is less likely to break and shatter. In turn, this provide several benefits, including:
- You’re less likely to lose the precious contents.
- There’s less risk of injury.
- You don’t have to deal with tape or netting.
In this post, we’ll delve into these benefits in more detail, address a couple of common concerns, and help you decide if safety coated glassware is the right choice for you.
The Benefits of Glassware That’s Harder to Break Superior Practicality
While glass is ideal in some ways for use in laboratory vessels, some of its properties actually make it a very poor choice. For example, the inherent slipperiness of glass makes it easy to drop. This is especially true when hands are wet or very dry, and particularly if a very lubricious substance is involved.
What’s more, upon impact with virtually any lab surface, glass is likely to break. Safety coatings on glassware help to alleviate some of these negative properties of glass, such as making it more slip-resistant and less likely to break on impact. From a user standpoint, safety coated glassware is simply easier to grip and more difficult to break.
1. You Can Save the Contents
That sinking feeling of losing a precious substance after a lengthy process or experiment is all too common. Not only is safety coated glassware less likely to break, if it does, a coated container is less likely to shatter. This means you have a better chance of saving the precious contents.
2. It’s Safer to Use
There can be major safety implications of using vessels that break easily. One documented incident involving a rotary evaporator saw a graduate student undergo multiple plastic surgery operations after glass shards from an exploded flask cut her hand and face.
This is bad enough, but broken glass represents an even bigger risk when a vessel contains a particularly dangerous substance such as a toxic chemical. Plus, spills and leakage of any kind can become a slipping hazard. Safety coated glassware can lower the risks of these types of glass-related risks.
3. You Don’t Need to Use Tape or Netting
Due to implosion or explosion hazards inherent when working with a vacuum, some users will wrap rotary evaporator glassware with tape or netting to minimize the risk of flying debris. Aside from being inconvenient, this can make it difficult to view the contents of the glassware. The properties of safety coated glassware should mean that you can forgo the tape or netting.
Potential Concerns About Safety Coated Glassware
While these don't necessarily represent benefits, there are areas where some users may be concerned about the potential downsides of safety coated glassware.
The types of glass used to manufacture vessels for laboratory use are known for their chemical resistance. With safety coated glassware, the inside of the vessel remains unchanged (not coated) so you don’t have to worry about anything compromising its contents.
Another benefit of glass used for laboratory equipment is that it is usually scratch-resistant. A concern may be that a coating will leave the vessel more vulnerable to scratching and eventually difficult to see through. According to many manufacturers, the coating materials are clearer and more scratch-resistant than ever, so transparency shouldn’t be a concern.
When NOT to Use Safety Coated Glassware
While it has many benefits, safety coated glassware isn’t suitable for all uses. For example, you’ll note that our rotary evaporators typically come with the option of coated glass for certain parts of the system only.
The FAQ section of the Hei-VAP Precision rotary evaporator explains which components are coated and why.
Condensers and collection flasks are ideal candidates for coated glass. On the other hand, the evaporation flasks need to withstand high bath temperatures which could degrade the coating. Typically, these types of containers may not be dry heat sterilized or come in contact with a direct heat source.
Other situations in which safety coated glassware may not be suitable include when dealing with particular substances that could react with the coating. The exact use cases will depend on the type of coating used, so it’s important to purchase the right equipment for your intended usage.