Choosing the Right Glass for Scientific Applications

Glass test tubes.

Glassware is one of the primary types of equipment used in research laboratories and across the scientific sector. Numerous glass types are used, selected for their unique properties and ability to perform in various applications, as well as withstand the challenges posed by the medium.

Glassware used in the scientific industry is fabricated using different materials and techniques to deliver durable, safe solutions.

Discussed below are the properties of each glass type and the applications where their use is most beneficial.

Borosilicate Glass

Borosilicate glass is formed with silica and boron trioxide. This glass is commonly used to construct reagent bottles due to its extremely low coefficients of thermal expansion. Borosilicate glass is far more resistant to thermal shock than other glass types commonly used in scientific applications.

It also demonstrates high chemical resistance when exposed to corrosive environments. In scientific applications, borosilicate glass makes up a substantial percentage of all modern laboratory glassware. Borosilicate glass is ideal for many scientific applications due to its optical clarity, high chemical resistance, and thermal tolerances.

Quartz Glass

Quartz glass – also known as fused quartz – is composed of silica in a non-crystalline (amorphous) form, containing no additional ingredients. Due to its purity, fused quartz glass has superior thermal and optical properties when compared to other glass types. It offers high thermal shock resistance and a low coefficient of thermal expansion.

Quartz glass transmits ultraviolet light better than other common glass types, making it ideal for the production of optics and lenses. Its purity also leads to frequent use in semiconductor manufacturing. Quartz glass offers strong corrosion and electrical performance, making it ideal for use as an electrical insulator.

Darkened Brown Glass

Darkened brown glass is most often used for chemical storage in scientific applications. Darkened brown glass prevents photochemical reactions that may occur when light is absorbed by the atoms or molecules of the stored substance. Darkened brown glass blocks ultraviolet and infrared radiation from degrading or otherwise compromising the integrity of stored materials.

It is mainly used to store photosensitive substances such as medications, hydrogen peroxide, and alkali salts.

Fritted Glass

Fritted glass is made by fusing glass particles through heat and pressure, resulting in a solid but porous body. Fritted glass allows gases and liquids to pass through while holding solids back. It is manufactured as discs, crucibles, and funnels, with differing pore volumes for various porosity requirements.

Fritted glass filters are often fitted within glass tubing and used as a component of laboratory glassware. Fritted glass is commonly used in scrubbers and spargers.

Assessing Glass Options

Many options exist for laboratory and scientific glassware, each offering different properties well-suited for a broad range of applications. Knowing the benefits of each glass type will ensure that you select the ideal option for your purposes.




Image Credit: A.J. Pictures/

Understanding eDrive Spin TestingNext Story »