Chemical Beakers: Glass vs. Plastic – Which Is Right for Your Lab?

Chemical Beakers

Chemical Beakers: Glass vs. Plastic – Which Is Right for Your Lab?

Posted on the 10th of May 2023 by Westlab

In the world of laboratory research and experimentation, selecting the right equipment is crucial to ensure precision, safety, and efficiency. Among the essential tools that scientists and technicians depend on are chemical beakers. However, when it comes to choosing between glass and plastic beakers, the decision may need to be more clear-cut. Therefore, in this article, we will discuss the key differences between glass and plastic beakers, discuss their advantages and disadvantages, and help you determine the ideal choice for your experiments.

But first, let's get clear on

What is a Chemical Beaker?

A beaker is a cylindrical container used in laboratories for holding, mixing, heating, and measuring liquids. It typically has a flat bottom, straight sides, and a spout for easy pouring. Chemistry beakers are essential tools for scientists, chemists, and researchers working with various substances, and they come in different shapes and materials, such as glass and plastic.

Types of chemical beakers

Lab Chemical beakers are available in various types, each designed to cater to specific laboratory needs. Here are some common types of beakers:

1. Griffin (or low-form) beakers

These beakers are the most common type found in laboratories. They have cylindrical shape with a flat bottom, straight sides, and a spout for easy pouring. Griffin beakers are ideal for mixing, heating, and measuring liquid substances.

2. Berzelius (or tall-form) beakers

Also known as graduated beakers, these beakers are taller and narrower than Griffin beakers, with straight sides and a spout for pouring. They are typically used for measuring and mixing liquids and often include graduated markings for volume estimation.

3. Crystallization beakers

These beakers have a shallow depth and a wide diameter, making them suitable for evaporating liquids and promoting the formation of crystals during the crystallization process. They are also used for performing reactions that require a large surface area.

4. Erlenmeyer (or conical) beakers

Although not strictly classified as beakers, Erlenmeyer flasks are sometimes used similarly. They have a conical shape with a narrow neck, which helps prevent evaporation and splashing while allowing for easy swirling or stirring of their contents. Erlenmeyer flasks are particularly useful for titrations, culturing liquids, and mixing solutions.

5. Polymer beakers

These beakers are made from plastic materials such as polypropylene, polyethylene, or polymethylpentene. They are generally lightweight, shatterproof, and cost-effective but may have chemical resistance and heat tolerance limitations compared to glass beakers.

Glass Beakers:

Glass beakers, typically made from borosilicate glass, have been the go-to choice for many laboratories over the years. They offer several benefits that make them a popular option:

  • Durability: Borosilicate glass is known for its ability to withstand high temperatures and thermal shock, making it ideal for heating applications and handling volatile chemicals.
  • Chemical Resistance: Glass beakers are resistant to most chemicals and are not susceptible to staining or absorbing odours, ensuring accurate measurements and contamination-free experiments.
  • Transparency: The transparent nature of glass beakers allows for easy visual inspection of their contents, facilitating precise measurements and observations.

However, glass beakers are not without their drawbacks:

  • Fragility: Glass beakers can break easily when dropped or subjected to substantial impacts, posing a risk of injury and chemical spills.
  • Cost: High-quality glass beakers can be more expensive than their plastic counterparts, potentially impacting laboratory budgets.

Plastic Beakers:

Plastic beakers, typically made from materials such as polypropylene or polymethylpentene, have gained popularity due to their unique advantages:

  • Durability: Plastic beakers are shatterproof and can withstand rough handling, making them a safer option in busy or fast-paced laboratory environments.
  • Lightweight: Plastic beakers are lighter than glass ones, which can be beneficial when transporting or handling large quantities of liquids.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Plastic beakers are generally more affordable than glass beakers, allowing laboratories to maintain their budgets while acquiring the necessary equipment.

Despite their benefits, plastic beakers also have some limitations:

  • Chemical Resistance: Plastic beakers can be susceptible to chemical reactions, particularly when exposed to strong acids, bases, or solvents. This can lead to deformation, discolouration, or even failure of the beaker.
  • Heat Resistance: Plastic beakers have a lower heat tolerance than glass beakers, which can limit their suitability for specific high-temperature applications.

Glass vs. Plastic: Which is better for you? 

The choice between glass and plastic chemical beakers ultimately depends on your laboratory's specific needs and requirements. Glass beakers are an excellent choice for high-temperature applications and handling a wide range of chemicals, whereas plastic beakers are suitable for cost-conscious laboratories that prioritize durability and ease of handling. By considering factors such as chemical compatibility, temperature requirements, and budget, you can make an informed decision that will contribute to the success and efficiency of your laboratory operations.

Westlab Australia - Get Durable Laboratory Equipment

At Westlab Australia, we offer a diverse range of high-quality glass and plastic chemical beakers, lab glassware, laboratory equipment, and measuring cylinders to help accurately conduct your experiments. Explore our selection and find the perfect beaker solution for your laboratory today. Whether you need a robust measuring cylinder or advanced machinery, we're committed to providing you with top-quality products and exceptional customer service. Equip your laboratory with the best tools for success by choosing Westlab Australia as your go-to supplier for all your laboratory equipment needs.


What is a beaker made of?

Beakers are typically made of either glass or plastic materials. Glass beakers are commonly made from borosilicate glass, which is known for its chemical resistance, durability, and ability to withstand high temperatures. Plastic beakers, on the other hand, are usually made from materials such as polypropylene, polyethylene, or polymethylpentene, which offer benefits like shatter resistance, lightweight construction, and cost-effectiveness.

What does a beaker measure?

A beaker is primarily used to measure the volume of liquids. Beakers come in various sizes and capacities, with graduated markings on their sides to help estimate the volume of the liquid contained within. Although more precise than other measuring tools like graduated cylinders or volumetric flasks, beakers provide a quick and convenient way to measure liquid volumes during experiments and laboratory procedures roughly.

How accurate is a beaker?

Beakers are generally considered less accurate than laboratory measuring tools like graduated cylinders and volumetric flasks. The accuracy of a beaker depends on the quality of the beaker itself, the clarity of its graduated markings, and the user's ability to read the liquid level accurately - generally said to be at 10%. Due to their relatively wide opening and imprecise graduations, beakers are best used for approximate measurements.

Do beakers measure volume?

Yes, beakers are designed to measure the volume of liquids. They feature graduated markings on their sides, which indicate the approximate volume of the liquid contained within. However, it's important to note that beakers are only some of the most accurate tools for measuring volume. Graduated cylinders, burettes, or volumetric flasks are recommended for more precise measurements.

2023-05-10 10:38:00
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