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Centrifuge tubes commonly found in the market are mainly divided into two types: plastic centrifuge tubes and glass centrifuge tubes, with a few being made of steel. Now, let's explore the differences between plastic and glass centrifuge tubes.
Glass Centrifuge Tubes
Glass centrifuge tubes are made of glass, and the strength may vary slightly depending on the glass composition used by different manufacturers. Regular glass test tubes can withstand a relative centrifugal force (RCF) generally less than 3000g, while borosilicate glass tubes can typically withstand over 10,000g of RCF. However, due to the fragile nature of glass centrifuge tubes, they are generally not used in high-speed centrifuges. Glass exhibits excellent chemical stability, compatible with acids, alkalis, organic solvents, and maintains stability in various environments. Glass tubes have stable shapes, can endure a certain degree of pressure, but are prone to breakage during high-speed centrifugation. Although glass is resistant to high temperatures and thermal shocks, it can break easily in environments with sudden, drastic temperature changes. The primary advantage of glass centrifuge tubes lies in their high transparency, allowing clear observation of sample properties and changes through the tube wall. Additionally, most glass centrifuge tubes possess excellent chemical resistance, better resisting chemical corrosion compared to plastics. They have low extractables and do not significantly impact samples.
Due to the material limitations of regular glass, high-speed glass centrifuge tubes are restricted in their applications and are generally not suitable for ultra-high-speed centrifuges.
Plastic Centrifuge Tubes
Plastic centrifuge tubes are typically made of biocompatible polypropylene (PP). PP material provides high transparency, ensuring clear visibility of samples and sedimentation results. Plastic centrifuge tubes meeting production standards generally do not contain heavy metals, metal ions, DNA, RNA enzymes, and are sterilized by gamma radiation. Plastic centrifuge tubes can withstand a temperature range of -80°C to 121°C, making them suitable for high-temperature, high-pressure sterilization, as well as ultra-low-temperature storage at -86°C.
Key characteristics of plastic centrifuge tubes include deformability under pressure and resistance to breakage, with a certain degree of transparency.
Glass is relatively easy to clean and allows for convenient reuse after cleaning. The reusability of plastic centrifuge tubes is lower, and they are prone to deformation compared to glass. While glass can withstand higher temperatures, plastic is more durable and cost-effective. Plastic centrifuge tubes can generally meet the requirements of high-speed centrifugation and withstand high-speed centrifugal forces of up to 12,000 × g. Due to their low hardness, plastic tubes can be sampled using the puncture method. However, they are susceptible to deformation and have poor resistance to organic solvent corrosion, resulting in a shorter lifespan. Presently, the mature production process and exquisite craftsmanship of plastic centrifuge tubes allow for diverse sizes and cost-effective production. In general, large laboratories mostly use disposable plastic centrifuge tubes, with minimal recycling or reuse.
Common specifications for plastic centrifuge tubes include 0.2 mL tubes (PCR tubes), 0.5 mL tubes, 1.5 mL tubes, 2 mL tubes, 5 mL tubes, 10 mL tubes, 15 mL tubes, 50 mL tubes, 250 mL centrifuge bottles, among other sizes. Glass centrifuge tubes are rarely produced as microcentrifuge tubes. Each material has its advantages and disadvantages, and currently, no single material can meet all centrifugation experiment requirements.
In summary, glass centrifuge tubes are advantageous for their high-temperature resistance, withstanding temperatures of up to 200 degrees Celsius, and high transparency for clear sample observation. However, they are fragile, requiring careful handling, and are relatively expensive. Plastic centrifuge tubes are made of materials such as polypropylene, polyethylene, or polyvinyl chloride. They are cost-effective, easy to store and use, and less prone to breakage. However, they are not suitable for high temperatures, have lower transparency, and may not offer the same observation quality as glass centrifuge tubes.