IN THIS ARTICLE:
- Disposable Syringes or General-Purpose Plastic Syringes. Composition.
- Chemical Compatibility of Disposable Syringes.
- Reusable Syringes. Composition.
- Chemical Compatibility of Reusable Syringes.
- Borosilicate Glass
- Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)
- Stainless Steel
WHY LEARNING ABOUT SYRINGE CHEMICAL COMPATIBILITY IS ESSENTIAL WHEN WORKING IN SCIENCE LABS:
- Syringes can be made from various materials, including plastic, glass, or stainless steel.
- Disposable syringes are made of polypropylene or a mix of polypropylene and polyethylene. They exhibit excellent chemical resistance to most solvents.
- Reusable syringes are made of materials such as borosilicate glass or stainless steel. They offer superior chemical and heat shock resistance and are suited to a broad spectrum of chemicals.
- To prevent undesirable reactions or potential accidents, it is essential to evaluate if the chosen syringe is compatible with the specific chemicals that need to be transferred.
Syringes are essential and versatile tools with multiple applications in various scientific disciplines, including chemistry, genomics, biochemistry, and medicine. They are used in many laboratories daily for measuring and transferring liquids and gases.
“No matter what you’re up to in the lab, it’s crucial to pick the right syringe based on whether it plays well with the liquids you’re transferring. We don’t want any chemical reactions ruining the experiments.”
But there’s not just one type of syringe out there – there are multiple options on the market, and finding the right syringe that’s compatible with the chemicals you’re working with can sometimes be difficult.
No matter what you’re up to in the lab, it’s crucial to pick the right solvent-resistant syringe based on whether it plays well with the liquids you’re transferring. We don’t want any chemical reactions ruining the experiments. Also, keep an eye on the temperature and pressure when choosing the perfect syringe for your needs.
While this article will help you to have a better understanding of syringe compatibility, I have to remind you: always be safe. Be a responsible scientist, and make sure to read the safety data sheet and double-check the compatibility of your materials before transferring liquids, especially when dealing with hazardous chemicals or extreme conditions like high temperatures or pressure. Safety should always be your number one priority.
“Disposable syringes provide users with the benefit of having to worry less about cross-contamination. This becomes especially crucial when handling toxic or infectious substances.”
Syringes can be made of different materials, such as plastic, glass, or stainless steel. So, here’s the deal: to make sure you don’t end up with a chemistry disaster and to avoid unwanted reactions, you have to figure out if the material of your syringe is a good fit for the specific chemical you’re working with.
If you want to know more about the different chemical-resistant syringes available in the market and or learn about the different parts of a syringe, read our interesting article Syringes in Scientific Research Labs: Choosing the Right Type of Syringe.
Disposable Syringes or General-Purpose Plastic Syringes. Composition.
Disposable syringes provide users with the benefit of having to worry less about cross-contamination. This becomes especially crucial when handling toxic or infectious substances. Disposable syringes are made of polypropylene or a mix of polypropylene and polyethylene.
There are two types of plastic syringes you need to know about. And guess what? There are some crucial differences between them that can totally influence which one you should pick for your experiment. So, pay attention and choose wisely!
- Three-part syringe:
- They’re the most common type of disposable syringes and go by different names like regular, standard, or RTP (rubber tip plunger) syringes.
- These disposable syringes are mostly made of polypropylene, which might not be perfect for every job, but they’re usually cheap and handy for lots of lab uses.
- On the lower end of the plunger, they have a black-colored rubber that prevents liquid or gas from returning or leaking while the plunger is being pushed or pulled.
“Although standard three-part syringes find utility across a broad spectrum of applications, two-part syringes present unique advantages tailored to specific uses.”
- Three-part syringes usually need a bit of lubricant, like silicone oil, to ensure that rubber slides smoothly along the barrel.
- In most applications, the presence of lubricant oil in syringes doesn’t cause any issues, and the syringes function as intended. However, in certain medical or laboratory applications, the lubricant can become a contaminant and lead to undesirable outcomes, producing contamination and compromising the accuracy or validity of your results.
Although standard three-part syringes find utility across a broad spectrum of applications, two-part syringes present unique advantages tailored to specific uses.
- Two-part syringe:
- Norm-Ject® or Henke-Ject®, a 2-Part syringe does not utilize a rubber tip on the plunger to create the vacuum seal.
- Two-part syringes have been specifically designed to avoid introducing additional materials, such as rubber or even silicone oil, that can interfere with specific applications.
“Two-part syringes don’t react with most lab solvents and chemicals, making them super handy for measuring, adding, or transferring all sorts of samples and solutions.”
- These disposable syringes feature two-part construction using polypropylene barrels and polyethylene plungers.
- Two-part syringes don’t react with most lab solvents and chemicals, making them super handy for measuring, adding, or transferring all sorts of samples and solutions.
- These syringes are the perfect choice for applications where the presence of foreign substances, like silicon oil, could potentially interfere with the desired outcomes.
Chemical Compatibility of Disposable Syringes.
As mentioned before in this article, disposable syringes are typically made of polypropylene and polyethylene. Now, let’s take a look at the properties of polypropylene, and polyethylene, and their chemical compatibility.
- Polypropylene is a sturdy material. It is slightly more rigid and boasts a higher melting point when compared to polyethylene.
- Polypropylene is known for its exceptional chemical resistance to a wide range of solvents, and syringes take advantage of the chemical properties of this polymer.
“But watch out. Polypropylene doesn’t play nice with aromatic and halogenated hydrocarbons, which make it swell up.”
- Polypropylene is more resistant to temperature than polyethylene. It can also resist abrasive agents and chemical solvents.
Regarding the chemical compatibility of polypropylene, please review this before you go on using a polypropylene syringe for your application:
- Polypropylene can handle bases, alcohols, acids, detergents, lower ketones, aldehydic, and water-soluble salts.
- But watch out. Polypropylene doesn’t play nice with aromatic and halogenated hydrocarbons, which make it swell up. Also, some ketones and ethers should be viewed with concern.
- Just don’t mess with strong oxidizing agents like chlorosulfonic acid, fuming sulfuric acid or concentrated nitric acid. Very strong acids can cause some trouble for polypropylene, even when working at room temperature.
- When things get hot, polypropylene can be dissolved by nonpolar solvents like xylene, tetralin, and decalin.
- Polyethylene, due to its non-polar nature, also has an exceptionally high resistance to chemicals and other media.
- Polyethylene is resistant to many solvents and is not affected by aqueous solutions of salts, acids, and alkalis.
- Polyethylene is not attacked by strong acids (non-oxidizing) or strong bases and is resistant to gentle oxidants and reducing agents.
- It can encounter issues when dealing with strong oxidizing agents like nitric acid, fuming sulfuric acid, or halogens.
“Glass syringes offer superior chemical and heat shock resistance and are suited to a broad spectrum of chemicals. Some of these syringes come with a glass barrel and either a stainless-steel or glass plunger, and sometimes they even throw in a coating of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).”
- At high temperatures, polyethylene can be dissolved when used with aromatic hydrocarbons, such as toluene, or in chlorinated solvents, such as trichloroethane or trichlorobenzene.
- Polyethylene is partially or totally soluble in certain extreme cases, e.g., in benzene or xylene at boiling point.
- And never forget that halogen and highly oxidizing substances attack this plastic. Look for another alternative when working with concentrated inorganic acids such as nitric acid, sulphuric acid, perchloric acid, etc.
Reusable Syringes. Composition
- Glass syringes are made of borosilicate glass, and you can use them repeatedly since they are reusable. Glass syringes offer superior chemical and heat shock resistance and are suited to a broad spectrum of chemicals. Some of these syringes come with a glass barrel and either a stainless-steel or glass plunger, and sometimes they even throw in a coating of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).
“When working with aggressive liquids or when high-pressure dosing applications are required, stainless steel syringes are your right choice.”
In the syringes where the plunger is made of stainless steel, they can have a tip made of PTFE. PTFE coatings offer excellent chemical and corrosion tolerance, they have non-adhesive properties and tolerance to high temperatures up to 260oC. PTFE is almost completely insoluble and chemically inert.
- Stainless steel syringes: When working with aggressive liquids or when high-pressure dosing applications are required, stainless steel syringes are your right choice since glass or plastic syringes could burst. Stainless steel syringes have high resistance, and they can also handle high temperatures. Stainless steel syringes are the most durable syringes available.
Chemical Compatibility of Reusable Syringes.
- Borosilicate glass:
- Glass syringes are made from heat-resistant borosilicate glass. These syringes are resistant to breakage from shock and sudden temperature changes.
- Borosilicate glass is renowned for its high level of inertness to almost all materials, except for hydrofluoric acid (HF acid), hot phosphoric acid, and hot alkalies. They can heavily attack the glass. So, when working with any of those chemicals, keep them away from this glass, or things could get messy. Out of all these chemicals, hydrofluoric acid is the real troublemaker. Even if there’s just a tiny amount in a solution, an attack will occur.
- When it’s cold, phosphoric acid and caustic solutions (up to 30% concentration) cause no problems, but they do crank up the heat, and corrosion starts to happen. Be careful with those elevated temperatures.
- Borosilicate glass is also highly resistant to hydrochloric and hydrobromic acids up to temperatures well beyond their atmospheric boiling points.
- Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE):
- PTFE is one of the most versatile plastics regarding chemical compatibility.
“You can totally trust PTFE with those reactive and corrosive chemicals. It has high resistance to corrosion against a large variety of chemicals.”
- It is highly resistant to most acids, alcohols, detergents, and solvents.
- PTFE is almost completely insoluble and chemically inert.
- You can totally trust PTFE with those reactive and corrosive chemicals. It has high resistance to corrosion against a large variety of chemicals.
- However, many alkaline metals and rare fluorinated materials, such as xenon difluoride and cobalt (III) fluoride, are influenced by PTFE at high temperatures and/or heat. Although PTFE is stable in most aggressive and corrosive media, I recommend that you be careful when using PTFE with extremely potent oxidizers. Just keep them away from PTFE.
- Also, some organic and halogenated solvents could impact PTFE. Fortunately, these effects are both physical and reversible.
“Stainless steel is capable of handling high temperatures, highly corrosive chemicals, and high pressures.”
- Stainless Steel:
- Stainless steel is capable of handling high temperatures, highly corrosive chemicals, and high pressures.
- Stainless steel is known for its resistance to acidic corrosion. However, the resistance of stainless steel will depend on the type of acid, the concentration, and the temperature. Hydrochloric acid is an exception to the general acid resistance of stainless steel and should be avoided.
- Any bromine solution, including KBr (potassium bromide) solution, is highly corrosive to steels. When in contact with bromine, steel undergoes a chemical reaction that leads to corrosion and degradation of the material.
- Stainless steel offers strong resistance to weak bases, both in high concentrations and in high-temperature environments. However, stronger bases will cause cracking or etching corrosion. Care must be taken with chloride solutions such as sodium hypochlorite. Also, sodium hydroxide at high temperatures could corrode stainless steel.
Syringe assemblies are commonly compatible with many substances on short-term exposure. When your syringe is not in use, we may recommend a thorough rinse in water or a fully compatible organic solvent, to avoid deposition or corrosion.
|Syringe Assembly Component
|Chemical Incompatibility Notes
|PTFE (e.g., Teflon)
|Syringe barrel and needle/hub
|Avoid strong bases (e.g., sodium hydroxide)
|Avoid substances that dissolve acrylate/acrylic acid (e.g., tetrahydrofuran, methanol, ethanol)
|UV-cured epoxy or acrylate derivative
|Avoid halogenated solvents (e.g., chloroform)