Basic Laboratory Techniques

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  • 0:01 Lab Techniques
  • 0:32 Pouring, Measuring, &…
  • 2:32 Gas Burners & Heating
  • 3:30 Using Glassware
  • 4:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Laboratories can be very complex and a little intimidating. In this lesson, you will learn about some basic laboratory techniques that will build your confidence by teaching you how to pour, measure, filter, and use gas burners and glassware.

Lab Techniques

When you first set foot inside a chemistry lab, it can be a little overwhelming. There are chemicals in bottles, flame sources, and all kinds of fragile glassware. Learning the proper techniques, and how to use all the equipment can take time, but we all have to start with the basics.

Lab techniques are the processes and practices that are recommended for using the various equipment in the laboratory. In this lesson, we will go over some of the most basic lab techniques you will need to know.

Pouring, Measuring, and Filtering

Pouring is a technique that is used in everyday life, and spills and splatters are common. I think we've all seen somebody try to pour a glass of water and make a mess all over a counter top. When it comes to pouring substances in a laboratory, the technique has to be much more precise. So, what's the solution? The basic technique to pour liquid in a lab is to use a stirring rod, or another similar instrument. You use the stirring rod to connect the pouring spout from the source container to where you want the liquid to go. Because liquids, especially water, are cohesive and tend to attach themselves to solid materials, using a stirring rod allows the liquid to flow smoothly down the rod without spilling. When pouring a liquid without a stirring rod, it is recommended to hold the two containers at arms length with your elbows slightly bent.

To measure the volume of a liquid using a graduated cylinder, or other calibrated and marked container, place your eye along the level of the liquid. You will see something that resembles a bubble shape along the top of the liquid with a top and bottom line. This is called the meniscus. The bottom of the meniscus should be lined up with the markings on the side of the graduated cylinder for an accurate measurement.

Sometimes you will need to separate a solid from a liquid. This is done by a process called filtration. This is done by taking a circular piece of filter paper, folding it into quarters, and then opening it to form a cone with three layers of paper on one side, and one layer of paper on the other. The paper is then placed inside a filter funnel held in place by an iron ring attached to a ring stand. The paper should be moistened with distilled water, and then pressed against the side of the funnel to attach it. The mixture is then poured into the funnel, with a beaker underneath to collect the liquid. The flow can be guided using a stirring rod. A solid that has been dissolved in a liquid can be separated using evaporation.

Gas Burners and Heating

Gas burners are connected to a gas supply through rubber tubing. After the gas flow is turned on, the burner is lit with a match or burning splint. Gas burners can be adjusted by opening or closing an air vent, which increases or decreases the amount of air that enters the burner. The vent should be closed when the burner is first lit. This will produce a yellow flame. As the air vent is opened, the flame will become increasingly blue, and therefore increasingly hot. It's important to never reach over a burner, and to keep hair and loose clothing secured when using a gas burner.

When heating substances using glassware, it is important to use special, heat-resistant glassware. Also, put a piece of wire gauze between the flame and the glass to avoid direct contact. When heating material in a test tube, the tube should always be held using a special test tube holder or clamp, with the opening of the test tube pointed away from everyone present.

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