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A Review of Glass, Plastic and Stainless Steel Syringes

A Review of Glass, Plastic and Stainless Steel Syringes

When choosing the correct syringe for your application, it is important to consider the chemical compatibility of the syringe with your sample. Other considerations are cost and durability. Its construction material mostly dictates the physicochemical characteristics of a syringe. Commercially available syringes are commonly made of glass, plastic or stainless steel.

Here's a review of all three types of syringes.

1. Stainless Steel Syringes

If you use high flow rates and viscous samples, you will likely encounter a high-pressure syringe, which may require a stainless steel syringe. Stainless steel syringes are extremely durable, with low volume errors and high chemical resistance.

However, these syringes can be more challenging to load than other syringe types because it is impossible to detect air bubbles visually; additionally, you cannot monitor samples for precipitation during the experiment. Stainless steel syringes are also more expensive and are usually only available in larger volumes.

2. Plastic Syringes

Plastic syringes have become popular in recent years due to their cheaper price point and increased durability in comparison to glass syringes. Although they do have a lower gas barrier, plastic syringes are commonly free from heavy metals like tungsten and have little to no siliconisation.

However, because they are not as gas-tight, they may not be suitable if you work with degassed samples and samples very sensitive to oxygen. Additionally, plastic syringes can become discoloured and hazy upon repeated sterilisation. Although plastic syringes are widely available in various sizes, they are rarely available in small microliter sizes.

Moreover, the injection volumes of plastic syringes can have errors as big as ±5%, higher than glass syringes.

3. Glass Syringes

Glass syringes are used most often in syringe pump applications because they are available in various sizes, including microliters. This enables experiments with smaller injection volumes. Glass syringes also have less volume errors than other syringes, usually around one per cent, making them ideal for high-precision work. Another advantage of glass syringes is that they have a high gas barrier, which is useful for oxygen-sensitive applications.

Glass syringes have some negatives associated with them. One is that glass is susceptible to breakage. Another is that chemical interaction between the sample and glass can lead to delamination, whereby the glass corrodes or flakes. Also, glass syringes might contaminate samples with sodium and heavy metals due to their material construction and manufacturing process. This can be concerning if your samples contain demetallated or apo proteins.

Adhesives like silicon oil and elastomer components typically added to glass syringes can also cause contamination. These contaminants can influence your experiments, specifically when working with sensitive biological samples and proteins.


There are many factors to consider when choosing between glass, plastic, and stainless steel syringes. Cost, compatibility, and durability are some of the most important considerations. Glass syringes are the most affordable option but also the most fragile.

Plastic syringes are more durable but may not be compatible with all medications. Stainless steel syringes are the most durable option but also the most expensive. Ultimately, the best syringe for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences.

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