Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business

Product Focus

Product Focus: Glove Boxes

Specific applications require particular features

Mike May, PhD

Mike May is a freelance writer and editor living in Texas.

ViewFull Profile.
Learn about ourEditorial Policies.

Glove BoxesA glove box consists of a sealed box with the inside accessible only by gloves. “Although their use is getting broader all the time,” says Laura Geenen, product manager at Bel-Arts Products (Wayne, NJ), “they are really used for two basic ideas: Protect what you work on from the environment, such as an analytic balance on a production floor, or protect you from what you work on, such as a virus.”

Despite the fact that most glove boxes provide a relatively simple process, different applications require different boxes. “There are dozens of kinds of glove boxes,” says Bob Applequist, product manager at Labconco Corporation (Kansas City, MO). “A chemist might be interested in an inert nitrogen or argon glove box that controls the oxygen and moisture levels, because of work involving reactive chemicals.” He adds, “A microbiologist might want an anaerobic glove box for anaerobic bacterial cultures.” The list goes on and on. For example, a virologist who works at Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) might need a Class III biological safety cabinet, a glove box that provides total containment. A drug researcher needs a glove box that can be sterilized between uses. Applequist adds, “Very few people are aware of the complex spectrum of glove boxes.”

For example, HEPA-filtered negative pressure glove boxes can be built to enclose ultracentrifuges or continuous-flow centrifuges for large-scale manufacturing in BSL-3 facilities. In discussing such glove boxes, Marian Downing, biological safety project manager at Alliance Biosciences (Richmond, VA), says, “The gloves themselves did not fit all users, especially those with small hands.” She adds, “So dexterity could be a problem.” That’s no small issue for BSL-3. She also points out that the thickness of the gloves made it difficult to use some instruments and “the placement of the gloves was not ideal for all users.” She says, “Some people had to crouch to fit the holes, and some had to stand on step stools, which was bad ergonomics.”

Building smaller boxes

When it comes to glove box trends, Geenen says, “They keep getting smaller” and, “There are glove boxes that can be moved.” For example, Bel-Arts Products offers a portable glove box with gas ports. “This creates an inert-gas environment that you can carry to where you want to use it,” Geenen explains. “You don’t need a flue with this. It just protects what you’re doing from the environment.”

Beyond size, some other features also change in glove boxes over time. As an example, Geenen points out polycarbonate glove boxes. “They provide a clear view from all around, so they are great for teaching.”

Much of the cost depends on the materials. For instance, the Precise Glove Box from Labconco is made of polyethylene. “It’s one molded piece,” Applequist explains, “and it comes in two versions: controlled atmosphere and HEPA-filtered.” He adds, “It offers most of what you get from bigger glove boxes in the $20,000 to $30,000 range, but these are less than $10,000.”

In the end, which is the best glove box depends on how it will be used.

For additional resources on glove boxes, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit