Chemistry Glassware Names and Uses

What would a chemistry lab be without glassware? Common types of glassware include beakers, flasks, pipettes, and test tubes. Each of these containers has its own unique form and purpose.

Beakers
Science beakers
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Beakers are the workhorse glassware of any chemistry lab. They come in a variety of sizes and are used for measuring volumes of liquid. Beakers aren’t particularly precise. Some aren’t even marked with volume measurements. A typical beaker is accurate within about 10%. In other words, a 250-ml beaker will hold 250 ml +/- 25 ml of liquid. A liter beaker will be accurate to within about 100 ml of liquid.

The flat bottom of a beaker makes it easy to place on flat surfaces such as a lab bench or a hot plate. The spout makes it easy to pour liquids into other containers. Finally, the wide opening makes it easy to add materials to the beaker. For this reason, beakers are often used for mixing and transferring liquids.

Erlenmeyer Flasks
A flask with blue liquid
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There are multiple types of flasks. One of the most common in a chemistry lab is an Erlenmeyer flask. This type of flask has a narrow neck and a flat bottom. It’s good for swirling, storing, and heating liquids. For some situations, either a beaker or an Erlenmeyer flask is a good choice, but if you need to seal a container, it’s much easier to put a stopper in an Erlenmeyer flask or cover it with parafilm than it is to cover a beaker.

Erlenmeyer flasks come in multiple sizes. As with beakers, these flasks might or might not have volume marked. They are accurate to within about 10%.

Test Tubes
Test tubes are good for collecting and holding small samples. They aren’t typically used for measuring precise volumes. Test tubes are relatively inexpensive compared with other types of glassware. Those meant to be heated directly with a flame are sometimes made from borosilicate glass, but others are made from less sturdy glass and sometimes plastic.

Test tubes don’t usually have volume markings. They are sold according to their size and may have either smooth openings or lips.

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