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Laboratory Equipment: Common Types and Safe Handling

Laboratories vary according to the field of science and engineering that they will be using. It follows that certain equipment used may be present in one lab, but not in another. A physics laboratory, for example, will have a vacuum chamber and particle accelerator, while chemistry laboratories will have specialized piped utilities and storage for chemical or biological matter. Every laboratory, however, will always have the basics such as countertops, cabinets, glassware, porcelain ware and a Bunsen burner or something similar.

What are the various types of laboratory equipment?

Centrifuge

A centrifuge is a device that either runs manually or through an electric motor. It works using the sedimentation principle where denser substances separate from those with lesser density and sink to the bottom. A centrifuge is classified according to rotor design, intended use and industrial application.

Types and Uses

In biology, biochemistry and chemistry, a laboratory centrifuge is used to isolate and separate suspensions.
A gas centrifuge is used to separate isotopes, in nuclear weapon programs and for uranium enrichment.

Outside the laboratory, there are the human centrifuges that are used to test pilots and astronauts’ tolerance, and a geotechnical centrifuge modeling that is used for soil testing.

 

Chemical Equipment

Most tools used when working with chemicals or in the field of chemistry falls under chemical equipment, including centrifuges. They are in good company with the following:

Chemical Reactors. As the name suggests, chemical reactors are used to contain reactions between two or more chemicals, in the field of chemical engineering. Reactors are differentiated by the design of the vessel.

Dryers. It is easy to guess what dryers are and their function. As lab equipment, they come in various types, including air dryer, belt dryer, industrial dryer, solar dryer, nano spray dryer and Yankee dryer.

Evaporators. These are used to transform liquid to gas. Most of them have four sections, namely: heating section, concentrating section, separating section and condenser.

Filters. Laboratory filtration supplies include a membrane filters, paper filters, syringe filters, filter funnels and vacuum filtration supplies.

Heat Exchanger. This equipment facilitates efficient heat transfer from one medium to another, with applications in space heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, natural gas processing, and sewage treatment.

Kilns. These refer to oversized ovens designed not only to cook, but complete certain processes. Kilns are used to harden or dry objects and, in some cases, bring about chemical change.

Pressure Vessel. Boilers and decompression accidents and incidents are two subcategories of pressure vessels, usually a container that holds gases at controlled pressures.

Scrubbers. These are systems or equipment that removes pollution or particulates in certain substances. A scrubber system, for instance, gets rid of gases from industrial exhaust streams.

 

Glass and Porcelain Wares

Some of the most basic tools used in laboratories are either made of glass or porcelain. Although they come in numerous types, the most common include:

Florence flask is used to hold and boil liquids in.
Volumetric or graduated flask is used to prepare standard solutions or for precise dilutions.
Erlenmeyer or conical flask is used to heat and store substances.
Graduated cylinder is used to measure the volume of a liquid accurately.
Burette is used in titrations.
Test tube is also known as culture and sample tube.
Watch glass is used to evaporate liquids, hold solids for weighing and to cover a beaker.
Petri dish is used to hold specimens for observation and grow cultures.
Crucible and cover is used for the production of metal, glass and pigment, because it can withstand very high temperature.
Evaporating dish is used to evaporate solids, sometimes to their melting point.
Mortar and pestle is used to crush, grind and mix various solid substances.

 

Along with a microscope, glass slide, magnifying glass, beaker tongs, test tube holder, funnel, eye dropper, and ring stand, you will see all of these glass and porcelain wares in a laboratory.

Other equipment found in scientific labs includes thermometers, magnifiers, optical devices, positioning instruments and laboratory robots.

 

Safe Handling of Lab Equipment

The reason that laboratory tools are provided is to ensure proper handling of chemicals, substances and other specimens. But safe handling of the equipment is just as essential, especially to the person performing an experiment. A laboratory can be a dangerous place and precautions must be observed.

Gear up properly

Even in simple experiments, it is best to gear up appropriately. Wear approved safety goggles, lab coat and other safety gear. In large-scale experiments and testing, other types of personal protective gear might be provided. Closed footwear is also necessary. Think of a science lab as a construction site, where the right gear can spell the difference between a safe and accident-filled day.

 

Refer to experts

Say you are unfamiliar with the use of lab equipment. Make sure to seek the help of experts or ask for supervision to ensure safety. It is best to work alongside with someone who is comfortable with the tools in the laboratory, so that you will understand the right and wrong way to use them.

 

Stay well-informed

Before you step inside the lab, know exactly what procedures to follow and which chemicals to use. No need to mess up the stuff inside steel cabinets, right? Remember to read labels carefully, so that you don’t combine volatile substances. If you are unsure of the results of a particular chemical mixture, don’t risk it.

 

Steer clear of dangerous chemicals

Acids are just one of the many substances that are sure to harm you. So, if there are liquids or items that you are not allowed to touch, steer clear from them. A good rule of thumb would be to touch only those substances that are part of your experiment.

Do not eat inside the laboratory

No matter how careful and cautious you are, you might accidentally touch your food after handling a toxic substance. Anything you drink or eat should be kept outside of the laboratory. Always remember to wash and scrub your hands thoroughly prior to consuming food or drink.

 

Knowledge is power. When working With laboratory equipment, always take the utmost precautions to get you through the day in one piece.