Fact versus fiction: The truth about glass industrial piping

Scientific labs in hospitals, universities, and private research facilities conduct thousands of experiments – from new drug development to agrochemicals to innovative methods of energy production — using some of the world’s harshest chemicals. The most advanced labs carry approximately 500 chemicals to use in various experiments.

While about 70 percent of these chemicals can be safely disposed of through standard drainlines, the other 30 percent — the most aggressive chemicals — are best disposed of through specialized piping systems.

In order to prevent contamination while safely disposing of these chemical mixtures, the piping must resist chemical interactions, as well as withstand extreme temperatures that are generated in bottle washers, autoclaves, and sterilizers.

While duriron, a high-silicon iron similar to cast iron, and PVC and polymer piping serve as legacy materials for chemical drainlines, there is one material that offers even greater advantages over these two industry standards: glass. Many engineers and contractors shy away from industrial glass piping because of long-held beliefs that glass is fragile and hard to work with. Yet glass has been used successfully as industrial piping for four decades, and offers unmatched chemical and thermal resistance, as well as compressive strength.

There are a number of falsehoods that hang around the use of glass piping for chemical disposal, so we’re here to dispel some of these myths and demonstrate why industrial glass piping is advantageous in new laboratory construction.

Myth: Glass is fragile, and can’t be used in certain drainline applications.

Fact: Glass can be installed in any circumstance, whether enclosed in a wall, buried under ground, set in concrete, or placed inside a trough or sleeve. Glass boasts high compressive strength that allows it to withstand external pressures. Additionally, these glass drainlines stand up to the aggressive chemicals and high temperatures created in lab settings. From a performance standpoint, industrial glass piping often exceeds the performance of duriron or plastic piping.

SCHOTT’s KIMAX glass piping in particular is made of borosilicate glass, which has high thermal shock resistance and a low coefficient of thermal expansion. Its thick walls add strength, and when installed correctly, it requires twice as much pressure to crush the glass piping as compared to traditional soil pipes. Plus, the material is fire rated and its firestop is relatively easy to install.

Myth: Glass drainlines are hard to work with.

Fact: Contractors work with cast iron or plastic piping more frequently, but glass piping is just as intuitive as these common materials. In fact, the process of cutting, installing, and hanging modern glass piping is just like cast iron no-hub or PVC piping.

Glass piping still has a bit of an image problem stemming from more than 30 years ago, when plumbers had to field bead these kinds of pipes. Today, beading is unnecessary, making glass piping incredibly easy to work with. Further, advances in materials have created much stronger glass that does not break as earlier materials would have.

One question contractors often ask is if special tools are needed when working with glass drainlines. Really, the only tool needed is a glass cutter — everything else works exactly the same as with duriron or plastic piping. Take a look at how easy it is to score and cut a piece of industrial glass tubing:


Myth: Glass piping is too expensive.

Fact: Glass drainlines are comparable in cost to thermal plastic and duriron materials. In fact, when adding material and installation expenses, the final price of a full glass piping system is extremely competitive to other materials in new laboratory construction.

Glass tubing can significantly reduce labor costs, therefore decreasing the overall bottom line. For example, glass tubing often requires fewer hangers than polymer tubing, and glass pipes and fittings can be preassembled and simply installed. In addition, connecting these lines is far easier than with other materials due to the bead and plain end couplings, which do not require fusing or gluing.

These glass pipes are also cost-beneficial in the long run. They’ll last decades — so long, in fact, that they’ll maintain their high performance well beyond the first building remodel.

The long-term value of glass drainlines

The work done in public and private laboratories represents the future in medicine, energy, and other research fields. Glass drainlines in these facilities can withstand corrosive materials and the high temperatures necessary to create new chemical formulations and drug compounds.

While nothing new, glass drainlines are an often untapped solution for the world’s greatest laboratories and research centers.

(2 Posts)

Hi, I’m Suzann Erben, Sales Director Pharmaceutical Tubing and Director of Logistics for SCHOTT’s tubing business unit in North America. I’ve been with SCHOTT for about 20 years, and I started as a Sales and Marketing Manager of household glass in Jena, Germany. I transitioned to SCHOTT North America in 2004, and now serve clients in the U.S. and abroad in my dual role in Sales and Logistics for the Tubing group. Outside of work, my husband and I love to spend time outdoors, and we also love to travel. Plus, I enjoy cooking, gardening, and crafting — especially near Christmas when I try to handcraft new items for my coworkers every year.

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