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Everything You Need to Know About Science Beakers

Sep 22,2021 by Edulab

Labs of all shapes and sizes are filled with a myriad of equipment. Whether you work in a large corporate laboratory or a school classroom lab, you’ll find that much of the equipment is the same or similar. Test tubes, balances and microscopes are all common sights in a laboratory, and today EduLab’s science squad are taking an in-depth look at the humble beaker.

Every scientist and student has used a scientific beaker for one reason or another, and they are one of the most common pieces of equipment in any laboratory. But where did they first come from? And how do you know which type is best for your lab?

What Is A Science Beaker?

Well, it’s a cylindrical container that is used in a laboratory to store, heat and mix liquids. They are generally made of glass, but some science beakers use heat resistant plastic or metal. This kind of equipment is available in a wide range of sizes, ranging from millimetres to multi-litres, so you can choose the right size for your application. They have a lip around the top for easy pouring and to prevent spills and have a flat surface on the bottom. Many lab techs will use beakers alongside other essential equipment like heat plates, Bunsen burners, safety tongs and stirrers.

Who Invented the Science Beaker?

Beakers in science have a long and rich history and are a crucial piece of kit that have been around for many thousands of years. It is thought that the name ‘beaker’ dates right back to the Beaker people from the Neolithic period. Way back in 10,000 BC, they were master pottery makers and are thought to have created the first iteration.

Over the years, various versions of the scientific beaker have made their way to the lab. One of the most popular is the short-form version, which is also known as the Griffin beaker. It was invented by John Joseph Griffin who began his career as a seller and publisher of chemical apparatus.

His goal was to improve the popularity of chemistry and penned several books on the subject. Ones which are tall and narrow and are often called Berzelius beakers. These were created by Jons Jacob Berzeliu, a scientist who is quite often considered to be one of the co-founders of modern chemistry.

What Are The Different Types of Beakers In Science?

As with many pieces of lab equipment, these are not a one-size-fits-all piece either. They come in many different sizes, shapes, and materials, and knowing which to use for each experiment is crucial. Some of the most popular beaker types include:

  • Tall Form: Tall form beakers are also called Berzelius beakers. They are roughly twice as tall as they are wide and have tapered sides and a pouring spout. Some will also feature a handle for easy manoeuvring. This kind is commonly used for titrations.
  • Low Form: Griffin beakers, or low form beakers, are wider than the Berzelius type and do not usually have tapered sides. They have a pouring spout and straight sides, with a wide, flat bottom. This makes them perfect for heating chemicals or liquids with a hot plate or Bunsen burner.
  • Glass: Both Griffin and Berzelius beakers can be made from glass. They usually use a borosilicate glass which is extremely resistant to extreme temperature changes. As well as withstanding temperatures of up to 400 degrees Celsius, glass beakers are also resistant to chemicals.
  • Metal: Usually made from aluminium or stainless steel. Metal equipment is lightweight and can’t chip or shatter like glass and depending on the metal type they can withstand high temperatures. One thing to bear in mind is that metal science beakers are opaque, so clearly seeing the contents is not as easy as with glass or plastic.
  • Plastic: These types of beakers are available in a range of different types of plastic. Choosing the right one for your application will depend on the chemical and heat resistance required. For example, LDPE and Polypropylene beakers can be used with weak chemicals and acids and withstand up to 80 degrees and 135 degrees Celsius respectively, whereas PTFE ones are compatible with almost all chemicals and heats of 360 degrees Celsius.

How To Use Beakers

They are a fairly simple piece of kit to use in a laboratory, and exactly how you use them will depend on your task at hand. Generally, you will use a beaker to measure out approximate volumes of liquids with the measuring lines provided.

Bear in mind that measuring with this piece of apparatus is not completely accurate and for exact readings you should use a balance.

Liquids in a beaker can be heated on a Bunsen burner or mixed together to create a chemical reaction. No matter how you are using beakers in your lab, you need to make sure they are thoroughly and carefully washed after use to avoid contamination