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What are the different types of plastic?

Plastic is a material made from polymers that can be shaped and moulded for various uses. When looking for a product you need, you might notice things such as ‘PP’, ‘LDPE’ and many others in relation to plastic. These refer to the different forms of plastics, as each have different properties, making them better suited for certain products.

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

This type of plastic is widely used due to being resistant to many types of chemicals.  It can withstand a wide temperature range (-100°C to 120°C), however it is not autoclavable as the typical autoclave temperature for sterilisation is 121°C. This is above the maximum temperature that HDPE can withstand. This plastic is lightweight, but can make sturdy leak-proof products. Unless dyed, it has a white cloudy colour.

HDPE can be used as waste bags that are autoclavable, however this is a single use item. It can be used for sampling equipment such as spoons and scoops, as well as bottles and canisters.

Camlab Choice Biohazard Yellow HDPE Autoclavable Waste Disposal Bags with Indicator Patch

Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

This plastic looks more translucent that HDPE and is less rigid. This makes it useful for products that need to be squeezed, such as squeezy bottles. It is also resistant to many chemicals which allows it to have many uses. LDPE has a temperature range of -80°C to 100°C, meaning this is not autoclavable.

Fluorinated Polyethylene (FLPE)

This plastic is sturdy, durable and can resist permeation from oxygen and carbon dioxide. It looks similar to HDPE, but is less absorbent of aromatic solvents and hydrocarbon. It has a temperature range of -100°C to 120°C and is not autoclavable.

Polypropylene / Polypropylene Copolymer (PP/PPCO)

PP/PPOC plastics are known to have a good chemical resistance which is useful for pipette tips and can make sturdy bottles. It has a temperature range of -90°C to 135°C, which makes this plastic autoclavable as it can withstand a temperature of 121°C.

Brand Filter tips Racked tip-Rack S Pp/Pe-Filter Sterile Bio-Cert Ivd

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)

This plastic has a white appearance and can produce items such as bottles with a smooth, non-adhesive internal surface. PTFE is very sturdy and inert. It has a temperature range of -267°C to 250°C, making this an autoclavable and reusable plastic. Magnetic stirring bars are commonly coated in PTFE plastic due to these features.

Polycarbonate (PC)

PC is a clear transparent plastic that is non-toxic and has good impact resistance. It is durable and can contain weak acids. It has a large temperature range of -135°C to 135°C and is autoclavable.

Do to its strength and rigidity, This plastic is good to use for products such as safety goggles.

Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol (PETG)

PETG is a single-use, durable non-toxic plastic with good impact resistance. It is compatible with alcohols, bases and weak acids. It has a temperature range of -40°C to 70°C and is not autoclavable.

Understanding the differences between different types of plastics can be very important when choosing equipment. This information should hopefully help you ensure that your selection is appropriate.

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