Scientific grade glassware is a staple found in nearly every laboratory. Glassware is easily cleaned, making it great for reuse for long periods of time, which makes it a great investment for a laboratory. It can tolerate high heat, making it vital in a number of analytical processes. And its opaque walls make it perfect for viewing solutions in. Beakers and flasks are some of the most common laboratory pieces of laboratory equipment around.
What is a Beaker?
A beaker is a cylindrical piece of glassware that is marked with gradations that are used for measuring liquid volumes. Beakers are such an essential piece of laboratory glassware, they even make a beaker coffee mug for all of us lab enthusiasts.
Pros Using a Beaker
The beaker is great for holding a variety of volumes and assisting chemical procedures like heating, stirring, mixing, and basic measuring.
Beakers have a spout that makes pouring solutions much easier. The liquid will flow through the spout and not spill over the sides. It allows the entire liquid volume to be transferred safely to a new container.
Tall and Low Varieties
High Volume Beakers
High volume beakers are generally used in oil extraction and large batch manufacturing. The biggest beakers can even measure and store volumes of up to 20L.
Great for Holding Smaller Vessels
Many analysts place chilled standards in a beaker that is submerged in a hot water bath or sonicator. This allows the standards to be kept safe while being brought to temperature or thoroughly mixed for use.
Cons Using a Beaker
Beakers are a general laboratory tool that can help assist in a variety of procedures. Though this means there are some downsides when associated with more complex measurements and solutions.
Measuring volume by the increments on the beaker just isn’t that accurate and can make your measurement off by 5% or more. This means you should only use the markings for general measuring purposes and nothing that needs to be too precise.
The wide mouth of a beaker leaves the liquid contents inside much more susceptible to evaporation.
What is a Flask?
A flask is an extremely versatile piece of glassware that has been developed to assist to multiple laboratory practices. It has an iconic cone shape and is most commonly made of glass.
Pros Using a Flask
There are numerous benefits to using a flask in your chemical process.
The Narrow Mouth
Atop a cylindrical neck, the mouth of a flask is usually fairly narrow. This makes it perfect for fitting with a cork or plug. By plugging the flask, the solution inside is unable to escape. This allows you to safely transport, mix and view your solution without the risk of spilling or contamination.
Many analytical procedures require you to invert the flask or mix it with a stir bar on a stir plate. In these instances, having the top stopped is vital for thorough mixing and following procedure.
Cone Shaped Body
That cone shaped body is great for swirling the solution in. It can easily mix and travel up the sides of the container without moving up through the neck. It is a great safety feature as it protects your analysts from the chemical exposure risk that comes with most open containers.
It is also very easy to grip with hands or tongs. This reduces breakage risk which in turns increases profitability and reduces broken glass hazards.
The wide, flat bottom of the flask makes it resistant to tipping over easily. This allows the flask to remain very stable as it is moved, swirled, or mixed with a stir stick. When an analyst is meticulously measuring chemicals into the flask, this security makes the process much easier for them.
Flasks have been redesigned to support a variety of laboratory processes. There are
- The traditional cone shaped Erlenmeyer flasks.
- Rounded boiling flasks which can withstand high temperatures and chemical reactions.
- Extraction flasks that can be connected to a vacuum pump that brings extraction fluid into them.
- Filtering flasks can be connected to tubing to help assist your filtration process.
Cons Using a Flask
No piece of laboratory equipment is perfect and even a flask requires a few extra measures at times.
If you are working with very precise measurements, you will likely need to use other laboratory equipment for measuring volume rather than the gradations on the side of the flask. Those gradations are generally accurate to 0.01mL but if you are working with more significant figures, that may not be accurate enough.
This will require you to use equipment like a balance, burets, a pipette and other measuring equipment that can calibrated to a tighter range.
More diligence is required when cleaning flasks because of their shape. Long, thin necks reduce the movement of your brushes when scrubbing the bottoms of the container. Clean glassware is essential for quality laboratory analyses.
Despite the minor downsides with beakers and flasks, they are both essential pieces of laboratory equipment. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes to suit your process needs.
For over 40 years, Lab Pro Inc. has been committed to delivering the highest quality chemicals lab glassware such as beakers and flasks, lab equipment, lab supplies, and cleanroom PPE apparel to medical device and electronic manufacturing laboratories worldwide. To learn more, visit the biggest Lab Supply showroom in California, or contact us online or at 888-452-2776.
“Why Science Labs Use Cone-Shaped Flasks.” Mental Floss, 28 June 2016, www.mentalfloss.com/article/82349/why-science-labs-use-cone-shaped-flasks.
Volumetric Glassware, www.webassign.net/question_assets/tccgenchem2l1/glassware/manual.html.