STANDARDS

CCSS: 6.EE.A.2, MP1, MP2, MP4

TEKS: 6.9A, 6.9B

Making Vaccine Vials

How a new type of glass helps keep the Covid-19 vaccine safe

Courtesy of Corning Glass

Scientists at Corning pour molten glass onto a steel tabletop. After it cools, they will measure its properties.

Last year, as scientists raced to create a vaccine for Covid-19, another race was taking place in western New York at Corning, Inc. This company is one of the biggest producers of glass in the U.S., and it was tasked with making millions of glass vials that could safely store the new vaccine. Luckily, Corning’s materials scientists and engineers had recently created a new type of glass specifically for vaccine vials called Valor Glass.

Last year, scientists raced to create a vaccine to prevent the spread of Covid-19. At the same time, another race was taking place at Corning Inc. This company in western New York is one of the biggest producers of glass in the U.S. The government hired Corning to make millions of glass vials that could safely store the new vaccine. Luckily, Corning’s materials scientists and engineers had recently created a new type of glass. They designed it specifically to be used for vaccine vials. It’s called Valor Glass.

To the average person, glass may not seem like the best choice of material. But according to Jane Cook, a materials scientist who helped develop Valor Glass, it’s one of the best containers for liquids like vaccines. Scientific equipment such as flasks and beakers have been made out of glass since the late 19th century. This type of glass, called borosilicate, is strong and heat resistant because it has the element boron for added strength. But when shaping this type of glass into vials, some of these atoms can boil away. These sections of the glass are weaker and can break when filled, when jostled together on an assembly line, or while in transit. This can also create microscopic flakes of glass that could contaminate the vaccine inside.

To the average person, glass may not seem like a good material to choose. But it’s one of the best containers for liquids like vaccines, says Jane Cook. She’s a materials scientist who helped develop Valor Glass. Since the late 19th century, scientific equipment has been made out of glass. The type of glass used to make beakers and flasks is called borosilicate glass. It is strong and heat resistant because the element boron is mixed into it. But when shaping this type of glass into vials, some of the atoms of boron can boil away. These sections of the glass are weaker. That makes them more likely to break when filled, when jostled together on an assembly line, or while in transit. This can also create microscopic flakes of glass that could contaminate the vaccine inside.

The Covid-19 vaccines had even more extreme requirements for their vials. The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at a teeth-chatteringly cold -76° Fahrenheit. It then needs to be warmed to room temperature before being administered to patients.

Researchers at Corning started work on Valor Glass in 2011. They replaced boron with aluminum and treated the finished vials with molten salt. “It gives an armor coating to the surface of the glass,” says Cook, “which makes the surface tougher and less likely to break.” The result is a type of glass 10 times stronger than normal—perfect for protecting Covid-19 vaccines!

The Covid-19 vaccines had extreme requirements for their vials. The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at -76° Fahrenheit! It then needs to be warmed to room temperature before being given to patients.

Researchers at Corning started work on Valor Glass in 2011. They replaced boron with aluminum. Then they treated the finished vials with molten salt. “It gives an armor coating to the surface of the glass,” says Cook. “This makes the surface tougher and less likely to break.” The result is a type of glass 10 times stronger than normal. It’s perfect for protecting Covid-19 vaccines!

Write and evaluate expressions about the Covid-19 vaccines and Valor Glass. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

Write and evaluate expressions about the Covid-19 vaccines and Valor Glass. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

A. Before the pandemic, Corning planned to make 75 million vials in 2021. Due to vaccine demand, Corning will make d times as many vials. Write an expression to find how many vials Corning will make in 2021.

A. Before the pandemic, Corning planned to make 75 million vials in 2021. Due to vaccine demand, Corning will make d times as many vials. Write an expression to find how many vials Corning will make in 2021.

B. Evaluate it: Corning plans to make 2 times as many vials.

B. Evaluate it: Corning plans to make 2 times as many vials.

A. Factories can fill 400 borosilicate vials per minute. When using Valor Glass vials, they can safely fill b more vials per minute. Write an expression to find how many Valor Glass vials can be filled per minute.

A. Factories can fill 400 borosilicate vials per minute. When using Valor Glass vials, they can safely fill b more vials per minute. Write an expression to find how many Valor Glass vials can be filled per minute.

B. Evaluate it: Factories fill 350 more Valor Glass vials per minute.

B. Evaluate it: Factories fill 350 more Valor Glass vials per minute.

A. The vaccine made by Moderna must be stored at -56ºF. When administered, the vaccine must be mºF warmer. Write an expression to find the temperature the vaccine must be when administered.

A. The vaccine made by Moderna must be stored at -56ºF. When administered, the vaccine must be mºF warmer. Write an expression to find the temperature the vaccine must be when administered.

B. Evaluate it: The vaccine must be 133ºF warmer.

B. Evaluate it: The vaccine must be 133ºF warmer.

A. Each vial can hold several doses of a vaccine’s active ingredient. Each dose of the Pfizer vaccine contains 0.075 mL of its active ingredient. One vial holds a total of v milliliters of liquid. Write an expression to find how many doses each vial holds.

A. Each vial can hold several doses of a vaccine’s active ingredient. Each dose of the Pfizer vaccine contains 0.075 mL of its active ingredient. One vial holds a total of v milliliters of liquid. Write an expression to find how many doses each vial holds.

B. Evaluate it: One vial of the Pfizer vaccine holds 0.45 mL.

B. Evaluate it: One vial of the Pfizer vaccine holds 0.45 mL.

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