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What is a Test Tube Used for in Science?

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  • 0:03 Handling Scientific Samples
  • 0:48 What Is a Test Tube?
  • 1:50 Test Tube Usages in Science
  • 4:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
You've surely seen them - test tubes - but did you know that they are used for many different things across the sciences? This lesson gives you several examples of what test tubes are used for in science.

Handling Scientific Samples

You wouldn't stick your hands into a vat of strong acid, would you? Of course not. Neither would you want to touch dangerous bacteria. You probably wouldn't want to run experiments on your body either!

So how do people in science then ensure their safety while running all sorts of experiments and tests? Sometimes, they wear gloves. Other times, gas masks. Face shields, gowns, and many other protective measures also exist. One other way they protect themselves in science is through the use of appropriate lab equipment to handle dangerous material. One of those pieces of equipment is called a test tube.

What Is a Test Tube?

A test tube is a clear glass or plastic container that is much longer than it is wide, commonly has a U-shaped bottom, and has an open top. It's essentially a cylinder-like piece of equipment with one open end. There are many reasons for why test tubes are made out of glass or special types of plastic. That's because they possess some advantageous characteristics, such as being leak proof (so long as the tube doesn't break, of course). Compare that to a tube made out of mesh wire. That wouldn't be very leak proof, now would it?

Glass and special plastic test tubes are also non-reactive. Many metals react with all sorts of chemicals in either dangerous ways or in ways that would ruin an experiment or sample. Test tubes are also clear. It's kind of hard to see what you're doing with an experiment if the tube is made out of wood, metal, or stone, isn't it?

Test Tubes Usages in Science

Test tubes have many uses across the entire spectrum of science. Let's quickly tour a university lab facility to find out more.

First, we meet Dr. Crazy. Dr. Crazy is a chemistry professor. His last name is befitting considering all the fumes he's inhaled in his life running wild chemical experiments. Dr. Crazy explains that he uses test tubes to hold all sorts of dangerous chemicals that would otherwise burn his hands. He also uses tests tubes as containers where he mixes compounds in a safe manner. Sometimes, he heats up his experiments within a test tube using a Bunsen burner.

Dr. Crazy is a bit scary, so we move on to Dr. Culture. Dr. Culture is a biology professor who specializes in microorganisms, like fungi and bacteria. She explains that her field has a great many uses for test tubes. As just one example, she mentions that she cultures (grows) many microorganisms within test tubes by providing them a nutritious broth within the tube. Essentially, the tube serves as a home for her microorganisms.

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