Lab Glassware

Whether students are purchasing their first sets of equipment or techs are restocking existing laboratories, the choice of laboratory glass determines not only the accuracy of results but also the safety of everyone in the lab. From flasks and petri dishes to thermometers and funnels, having the proper laboratory equipment is essential for the success of every scientific experiment. It is important to verify factors like the glass type, function, and joint size of all lab glassware.

What are the different types of laboratory glassware?

In a lab setting, scientists choose glassware based on the needs of the specific experiments performed. The most popular types of lab glassware are made out of borosilicate glass and include beakers, test tubes, and flasks.

  • Beakers are cylindrical containers of various sizes with flat bottoms and open tops. Often including a lip for pouring liquids and measurement markings along the side, beakers are standard in the laboratory for combining chemicals and heating solutions.
  • Test tubes are narrow cylinders with round bottoms and open tops. Scientists use these to hold smaller samples of biologic or chemical material while running tests like cultures. Test tubes sit in a holder to keep them standing upright.
  • The Erlenmeyer flask is a conical piece of glassware with a large flat bottom. The top of the cone consists of a cylindrical neck and opening. The Erlenmeyer flask design helps with swirling and mixing without the risk of spillage and also provides a better shape for boiling chemicals.
  • Round bottom flask is a spherical piece of glassware with a neck and opening at the top. Scientists use this type of flask for heating and distilling liquids. Holders for round-bottom flasks attach via a clamp around the neck.
  • A volumetric flask consists of a long narrow neck that expands out into a pear shape with a flat bottom. They come in different sizes and hold a precise amount of fluid at a given temperature.

What type of glass is used in a scientific lab?

Most laboratory glassware is borosilicate glass, a tempered glass that can withstand rapidly changing temperatures. Many scientific experiments involve heating and cooling processes. As these experiments expose materials to extreme temperatures, borosilicate glass is used as it prevents glassware from shattering or exploding.

Does lab glass joint size matter?

Many scientific experiments consist of a series of reactions, mixtures, and temperature changes. Joint size matters when assembling laboratory glassware in order to transport chemicals through this process. The joint, or opening, on a piece of glassware is measured with two numbers: the first being the diameter and the second being the length of the joint. As long as the first measurement is the same, two pieces of glassware are compatible.

  • Thermometers can fit into test tubes and rounded flasks to measure precise temperatures of reactions.
  • Funnels and stirring rods are essential for transport of fluids between glass containers in the lab.
  • Condensers are glass instruments that lower the temperature of a gas or liquid sample.
  • Pipettes and burettes are useful for adding very precise amounts of reagent to a solution.