Academic research laboratories, educational science labs for students within a school curriculum, or private laboratories in industry all have common equipment needs to perform bench science. Lab glassware, the components required to safely heat solutions, and other large laboratory equipment are required for most labs. Maintaining and replacing this equipment requires understanding the needs of the specific laboratory and remaining vigilant for signs of wear and tear.What are some useful pieces of laboratory equipment?
- Laboratory glassware: Flasks and beakers made of laboratory-grade glass are suitable for making most solutions and mixing reagents, solvents, and chemicals. Graduated cylinders are marked at specific volumes to allow measurement of precise amounts of liquids.
- Solution heaters: A Bunsen burner allows the user to generate a finely controlled flame. A ring stand or test tube holder can be used to hold beakers or test tubes above the flame to allow heating. Alternatively, a benchtop hotplate can be used to heat solutions in a beaker.
- Safety equipment: The use of personal protective equipment is required in most lab environments, from middle school science classes to industrial pharmaceutical laboratories. Among the basic equipment that should always be on hand are laboratory coats, protective goggles, face shields, disposable gloves, and breathing masks.
- Microscopes: A microscope is a crucial laboratory apparatus and can come in a variety of sizes that are suitable for different tasks. Small upright microscopes are used in educational laboratories, whereas more powerful equipment is required for microbiology. Dissecting microscopes are useful to aid in precise physical manipulation of a biological or mechanical object.
- Centrifuges: These machines spin samples at high speeds in order to separate the contents by weight. A small apparatus is useful for spinning down a small quantity of sample at low speeds, whereas higher speeds or larger samples usually require a specialized stand-alone unit.
Erlenmeyer flasks are specifically formed to have a wide base and a narrow neck to allow swirling of liquids within the vessel with minimal chance of the liquid spilling. This is in contrast to volumetric flasks that have a wide, spherical base and a long slender neck and are used for making solutions in an exact volume.How do you identify laboratory equipment that needs replacement?
Stocks of breakable laboratory glassware such as flasks, beakers, and test tubes are frequently damaged and require regular replenishment. Likewise, other essential types of laboratory equipment, including benchtop hot plates, Bunsen burners, and thermometers, must be kept in good working order for proper laboratory safety. Some things to keep in mind include the following:
- Test tubes that become caked in soot or chemical residue can become unsafe and require replacement.
- Examine all flasks, beakers, or other vessels that can hold solutions for signs of cracks along the sides that can cause the glass to shatter unexpectedly.
- If analytical balances, microscopes, or centrifuges cannot be calibrated properly, they should be decommissioned and replaced.