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Lab glassware: materials, types and maintenance

You all know those, bit weird to laymen, glass pieces of equipment used in laboratories, usually in biology or chemistry, even though you sometimes cannot recall their names. That equipment is called lab glassware, or laboratory glassware, even though they are made of plastic sometimes. This is a very important part of the lab apparatus and no experiment could be made without lab glassware.

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Materials used to produce lab glassware

Lab glassware can be produced from different types of material, usually depending on the purpose and the cause for which it is used. It is obvious that the same material would not be used for lab glassware used for reactions that happen only when the temperature is very high, in contrast to reactions that happen on room temperature. Even though plastic is cheaper, most of lab glassware is still made of glass due to its consistency and its capacities to withhold heat and being immune to dissolution that could happen when in touch with strong chemicals. Quartz glass is sometimes utilized, since it can resist extreme heat. Borosilicate is also popular and is often utilized for production of lab glassware. Some reactions require glass that has thicker walls, so it would resist the pressure. Except for few specialized items, lab glassware is usually part of mass production.   

Types of lab glassware

The boiling tube and the test tube are two of the most often used lab glassware. They are practically the same, with the only difference being that the boiling tube is significantly larger and it is usually used together with the Bunsen burner. Both of them are usually made of borosilicate, so they are immune to extreme heat. The above mentioned Bunsen burner creates a flame to which the boiling tube is submitted, enabling the desired chemical reaction. It is named after Robert Bunsen, a 19th century German scientist who invented the burner. The Petri plate is a thin object, usually utilized to cultivate bacteria. It got its name after Julius Richard Petri. It has a very wide use in microbiology. The distilling trap is a much more complex piece of lab glassware usually used to separate water from other fluids during a reaction.

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It can be referred to as Dean-Stark apparatus in honour of the two scientists, Dean and Start which invented it. The glassware joints are used when the scientist wants to put together few pieces of lab glassware, in way that would stop the chemical inside them from leaking out, but that would enable him/her to separate them later. There are few types of glassware joints: o-ring joints, joints that connect metal and glass, threaded connections, hose connections etc. Besides glassware joints, there are also glassware valves.

Maintenance of lab glassware

Lab glassware can be cleaned in more than few different ways. If you want to get rid of the oily layer that can cover the glassware after use, you should awash the item in detergent solution. However, visible, larger spots of dirt should be cleaned manually, with a special brush. In some cases, acetone is applied to the lab glassware if we want to ultimately clean the equipment. No matter which way of cleaning is used and there are few more, other than the previously mentioned ones, the lab glassware has to be properly dehydrated after the process of cleaning. This ensures that no unwanted chemical reactions will happen in the meantime.

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