Almost every laboratory uses chemicals in one form or another. Knowing where to buy them, what grade to purchase, and what labelling is required can be confusing. This guide will help you navigate some of those challenges:
Most laboratory chemicals are labelled with a grade which generally indicates the purity of the chemical. There are many different standards used in grading, however, the three you are most likely to encounter are: ACS, Reagent Grade and Laboratory Grade. Varying terminology is often used by different chemical manufacturers but as a general rule of thumb, ACS and Reagent Grades are usually the purest with Laboratory Grade being less pure. Since ACS Grade chemicals are supported by a batch specific Certificate of Analysis, these tend to be higher priced than the lower grades. Laboratory Grade chemicals are often used in less critical analyses and educational labs as a middle tier quality.
• Alternate Names: American Chemical Society
• Purity Level: Very High purity, ACS means that it meets the standard set out by the American Chemical Society.
• Applications: Suitable for use in many laboratory and analytical applications
Reagent Grade (R/G)
• Alternate Names: Analytical Reagent (AR), Guaranteed Reagent (GR), UNIVAR, AnalaR, Premium Reagent (PR)
• Purity Level: Very high purity, meets or exceeds standards set by American Chemical Society (ACS). Batch specific Certificates of Analysis. Assay printed on label.
• Applications: Can be used in all scientific areas where quality is critical. Quantitative analysis in QA environments. Research laboratories. Producing primary standards (buffers, volumetric solutions)
Laboratory Grade (L/G)
• Alternate Names: Laboratory Reagent (LR), UNILAB, Chemically Pure (CP)
• Purity Level: Relatively high purity, exact levels of impurity unknown. Often meets BP, USP or FG standards – certification needs to be checked if suitable for use in these applications. Product specs generally available.
• Applications: Excellent for teaching and educational labs, not pure enough for food, drug or medicinal use. Often used for general lab work where an analytical reagent is not required.
• Alternate Names: Tech Grade (TG), Commercial Grade
• Purity Level: Contains impurities. Basic product specs usually available. Sometimes complies with Food Grade certification.
• Applications: Used in low grade applications and/or qualitative testing. Often supplied in bulk for industrial or commercial applications.
These grades are application specific, extensive data is available from key manufacturers and distributors.
• HPLC grades – often available in varying degrees of purity
• Ultra Pure reagents
• AAS/ICP Standards
• Ultrapure reagents
• Molecular Biology grade
• Reference Standards for USP, EP and BP testing.
• Food Pharmaceutical grades (BP, EP, FG)
Labelling of Chemicals
All chemical labelling should be GHS compliant and contain all the information you need to know about what’s inside the container. This should include:
• Product Specifications or Assay
• Clear product name
• Hazard and Precautionary statements
• Pack size
• Chemical Formula and molecular weight
• UN number and shipping name
• Product code and barcode
• Batch number
• GHS pictograms
Most manufacturers will colour code their labels according to the grade for quick and easy identification.
Packaging of Chemicals
Packaging of chemicals is constantly evolving with the changing needs of laboratories. A few newer features that are available from reputable manufacturers include:
• Outer Cartons – easy to open and close.
• Environment – environmentally friendly packaging for 4×2.5L Glass Bottles
• Dry Reagent Bottles – Square, tamper-evident, plastic with wide neck access.
• Stronger Plastic Bottles – 2.5L Plastic Bottles with a more robust design.
• 500ml bottles to 20L drums (metal and plastic)
• 500G containers to 20Kg buckets
Purchasing of Laboratory Chemicals
There are a variety of chemical suppliers from General laboratory distributors to specialty manufacturers and bulk chemical producers. Many laboratories prefer to combine their chemical requirements with general purchases and often require very fast delivery and hassle-free sourcing to ensure continuity of supply. Most suppliers will charge a small Dangerous Goods (DG) delivery fee to cover the costs of compliance in transportation and documentation. Safety Data Sheets (SDS) should be available online for easy download and should be in a compliant format specific to the chemical manufacturer.