A History of Innovation and Sustainability
"With Corning, we have a long history of leveraging material science and innovating to solve customer problems," says McCarthy. There has long been a sustainability aspect for Corning Life Science manufacturing processes, which aim to maximize energy efficiency, and we are increasingly seeking to minimize the amount of plastic in our consumables and their packaging by designing and developing with sustainable intent.
Refining production processes and continually redesigning products for greater material efficiency are essential to reducing plastic usage in manufacturing. For instance, without compromising quality, certain containers can be made with thinner walls or an alternate design to use less plastic.
For example, making a simple change in format for a standard cell culture flask has not only saved time by supporting better handling in the lab, but also made the product more sustainable. Redesigning a tissue culture flask to alter its sharp angular shoulders for a more rounded profile reduced the amount of plastic for the consumable by around 23%.
"Think about how bottled water brands have minimized plastic," says McCarthy. "Remember how all of the bottles used to be really rigid? Now most of them are almost squishy because they're using so little plastic, but they still do the job. While we might not be able to go that far with lab products, we can still take inspiration from the example."
Intensification: Scaling Up for Sustainability
Scaling up is another strategy for sustainability, and it's an approach that often isn't given as much attention in the lab. Consider cell culture in terms of the automotive measure miles per gallon, but with "cells per …" as the important metric.
"You're looking at something like cells per square inch of plastic, or per gram used in manufacture of the culture dish," suggests McCarthy. "With intensification, you're effectively boosting the number of cells per unit of plastic in the product."
Corning innovation has resulted in a number of inter-related products that can enable researchers to scale up cell culture seamlessly without compromising quality. The HYPER® (High Yield PERformance) range of life science consumables deliver increased production in a relatively small physical footprint, allowing scientists to efficiently grow more cells at scale with less waste. The HYPER technology cell culture vessels offer multiple interconnected adherent surface layers made of gas-permeable film that maximize cell growth and productivity.