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Bunsen Burner: Parts, Function & Diagram

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  • 0:00 Bunsen Basics
  • 0:40 Parts and Diagram
  • 0:55 Function
  • 2:10 Uses
  • 3:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth (Nikki) Wyman

Nikki has a master's degree in teaching chemistry and has taught high school chemistry, biology and astronomy.

Mastery of the Bunsen burner is a major milestone for any science student. Learn the parts of the Bunsen burner, understand its function and be able to interpret a diagram of science's most famous burner.

Bunsen Basics

If you've ever taken a science class in high school or college, you've likely worked with a Bunsen burner. Using a Bunsen burner can be one of the most exciting parts of a laboratory experience; its conical blue flame is reminiscent of the firing engine of a space ship, beckoning students of all ages to set things on fire.

The Bunsen burner produces a flame that can be used for various purposes, such as heating or sterilizing materials. It is named after Robert Bunsen, not the scientist who invented it, but the scientist who improved and popularized it in the mid-1800s.

Parts and Diagram

A Bunsen burner is made entirely of metal. In order to function properly, Bunsen burners must have a barrel (A) that's approximately five inches long, a collar (B) with air holes (C), a gas intake (D) and gas valve (E) and a stand (F) to keep all of the pieces from making contact with a work surface.

Function

Once connected to a source of fuel, usually methane, the Bunsen burner can be ignited with a spark. Incoming gas reacts with oxygen in a one-to-three ratio to produce a blue flame that comes out of the top of the barrel.

Adjusting the gas valve on the Bunsen burner changes the volume of gas flow; the more gas entering the burner, the larger the flame. The collar at the base of the barrel contains air holes to control the amount of oxygen reacting with the gas. The collar can be rotated to adjust oxygen intake. In general, the more oxygen present, the more intense and blue the flame will be. Less oxygen lends to a weaker yellow flame. The more oxygenated blue flame is both hotter and more controlled than the oxygen-deprived flame; scientists generally prefer a controlled blue flame.

This diagram shows the burner producing two sets of blue flames. The inner flame is a smaller and a brighter blue, while the other flame is larger and a darker blue. The flame is hottest between the tip of the smaller flame and the tip of the larger flame.

Uses

It is not uncommon to walk into a science lab and find gas jets on the lab tables and Bunsen burners in the cupboards. Scientists from all disciplines recognize the versatility of the Bunsen burner. Biologists may light a burner in order to sterilize tools used to transfer bacterial colonies from one agar plate to another. Chemists may use Bunsen burner heat to expedite a chemical reaction or remove water from a hydrated chemical.

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