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During crime scene investigations in any movie, you’ve probably seen forensic scientists collecting evidence and biological samples in small containers. Here, these are the vials, used to store medicines, especially in liquid form, or laboratory samples. Often made of glass or plastic, vials can be labeled as single-dose vials or sterilized and reused more than once. They are also available with various closure systems depending on the material and storage requirements.

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A vial for every application

Vials really do have millions of uses based on the material and application. Glass vials have been used for hundreds of years to store liquid pharmaceutical products. But glass is not always the same. For instance, The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) classifies glass into borosilicate glass as Type I and soda-lime-silica glass as Type II and III, with the difference being that  Type II has a special treatment to increase hydrolytic resistance.

Borosilicate glass contains at least 5% of boric oxide and is used for injectables with acid, neutral and alkaline pH. Amber-colored vials, created by adding iron to the glass, protect the substance from UV light and are suitable for light-sensitive samples.


Plastic vials, made of polypropylene or polyethylene, are widely used in cosmetics and law enforcement agencies. Compared to glass vials, they have lower chances of leaching and are much easier to handle. Plastic vials have excellent resistance to bases, alcohol, and acids. Special vials are also made for specific applications like cryogenic or liquid scintillation. Cryogenic vials are made of special polypropylene material to withstand extremely low temperatures. Scintillation vials are mostly glass vials used in liquid scintillation counting; this process is used to measure the substance’s radioactive activity.

Single-dose vials or multi-dose vials?

In medical applications, single-dose and multiple-dose vials are available. Single-dose vials are intended for one-time use and do not contain anti-microbial preservatives. The contents must be used within an hour after opening and any remaining contents must be discarded. These vials must be appropriately disposed of afterward. Multi-dose vials contain more than one dose of medication and contain anti-microbial preservatives to prevent the growth of bacteria after opening. It must be used for a single patient as much as possible to avoid cross-contamination and must not be used after the beyond-use date indicated on the label.

Coat your vials to improve chemical resistance

Glass delamination occurs in the inner surface of the container when exposed to chemicals due to chemical reactions and leaching of elements from the glass. As a result, glass flakes appear mixed with the chemical solution. If you think about it, this is a serious quality issue. Leaching of elements from the glass, such as sodium affects the pH level of the solution over time and may even lose the product’s efficacy.

As a solution, glass vials are treated by the vapor phase deposition silanization (or siliconization) method. This process involves applying a silicon solution to the surface as a protective layer to minimize the interaction between the vial and the substance. This method provides a uniform glass coating that improves the chemical resistance and gives a low adsorption characteristic preventing chemicals from sticking to the surface.

Aseptic vial filling equipment to ensure the safety of pharmaceutical products

Aseptic filling is fundamental in pharmaceutical industries to guarantee the quality and safety of its products from contaminants that may cause a reaction to the product leading to health risks when used. Exposure to contaminants also deteriorates the product quickly. The filling process starts with a vial washer before it goes to depyrogenation tunnels to remove pyrogens such as endotoxins and exotoxins. After sterilizing, vials are filled and stoppered by vial filling equipment. Then, they go to the capping and crimping machine for sealing.

Vial labeling and serialization equipment for product traceability

Serialization is a process used for product traceability operations. Information such as production-expiration date, lot number, and serial numbers are stored in a data center. By assigning a unique code to a drug packaging, counterfeiting of drug products can be prevented. Serialization is usually integrated with the labeling process of the vials. A high-resolution printer writes the labels with all the information required and then a code-reading camera is used during the verification process for readability.

Processing steps involved in vials making

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