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Polypropylene Vials: An Alternative to Glass

By: Ron Shawley, Reporter US Volume 26.1

Ron Shawley

ron.shawley@sial.com

Vials manufactured from plastics, such as polypropylene and polymethylpentane (TPX), are a sensible alternative to consider when glass vial weight, breakage, surface inertness, and/or disposal costs are concerns.

Glass vials are the most commonly used vessel for storing analytical samples in the lab. Their relatively inert surface makes them compatible with many different solvent systems and they are available in a wide variety of styles and sizes, including clear and amber glass. Glass vials can withstand temperatures up to 500 °C for autoclaving and derivatization applications.

However, plastic vials are also available in a wide range of volumes and configurations. Breakage is not an issue with plastic vials, and they are non-reactive with most sample chemistries.

Plastics are also:

  • compatible with many solvents (see Table 1)
  • optimal choice when working with proteins
  • ideal for IC applications
  • suitable for insert-free microsampling
  • an excellent choice for storing pH sensitive samples
  • economical to purchase


Table 1. Polypropylene and TPX Solvent Compatibilty (Tested at 50 °C)



Plastic’s maximum temperature range (135 ºC - 175 °C) and smaller volume capacity make them well-suited for many laboratory applications. When glass vials are not required, laboratory personnel should consider the advantages of plastic when selecting vials.

For a more comprehensive listing go to sigma-aldrich.com/vials

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