Laboratory equipment: 23 essential items and instruments

Laboratory equipment: 23 essential items and instruments

Most of the scientific advances of the last centuries have been possible thanks to the technological progress and the effort of its application in the investigation of the phenomena of different branches or aspects of reality, generally by means of experimental research.

Although such investigations can be carried out in different ways and in different places, they are usually carried out in some kind of laboratory, where there are sufficient elements and conditions to generate experiments that can check or analyse samples, as well as reproduce under controlled conditions the phenomena or situations to be studied.

And in this context , the need to have adequate equipment and sufficient laboratory material stands out. Throughout this article we are going to talk about the different elements that make up the latter, at least with regard to the most basic of what is generally available.

Laboratory equipment: basic objects

We can understand by laboratory material the set of utensils and instruments that a laboratory needs to be able to carry out the necessary research or experimentation in order to generate knowledge and analyse the phenomenon of reality that is being studied.

It must be taken into account that there is a great variety of types of laboratories , each of them requiring specialized material in the field of study in which one is working: it does not require the same type of material from a physics laboratory as from a chemistry laboratory, for example. The material indicated below is usually considered to be the most basic and the most associated with the laboratory prototype, perhaps with an orientation towards chemistry, biology and medicine.

1. Test tube

This small transparent tube, which has a base that allows it to be supported, has the main function of measuring the volume of a liquid or a solid (according to Archimedes’ principle).

2. Test tube

A type of tube, similar to the test tube but without a base, into which liquids, solutions or samples are usually poured to be analyzed or experimented with.

3. Rack/grid

When using test tubes it is necessary to be able to leave them in a fixed place from which to work, as they do not have a support base. That is why a grid or rack can be very useful to deposit them, especially when we have several samples.

4. Microscope

Although the first laboratories did not have this material, the invention of the microscope was a revolution at the scientific level, allowing the examination of matter, its composition and structure and its interaction with the environment at a level indistinguishable to the human eye. Today there are few laboratories that do not have one.

5. Petri dish

A small round, transparent container with a lid that is usually used to place tissue, bacterial and cell samples for subsequent culture generation.

6. Slide

Similar to the previous one, a slide is usually a small, thin glass or plastic plate on which a small portion of the sample to be analyzed (for example, a drop of blood) is placed, so that it can be observed under the microscope.

7. Pipette

A laboratory instrument, generally made of glass or plastic, that allows us to measure the volume of a substance that we can pour in a controlled manner from one end of it, and can easily determine the amount of substance that has come out of it.

8. Burette

An elongated instrument similar to a mixture between a test tube and a funnel, the burette makes it possible to determine the volume of a liquid or solution while having a handle or stopcock to allow regulation of the liquid flow.

9. Flask

Larger container, usually shaped like a test tube with a closed, widened end, is used to contain substances, mix or distil them. There are various types, one of the best known being the Erlenmeyer.

10. Agitator/mixer

An agitator is any instrument that allows, through its movement, the uniform mixing of the samples with which it is working. Traditionally, a rod was used, but nowadays there are electronic mixers or mixers with different mechanisms.

11. Funnel

Especially in chemistry, there are often different types of funnels which allow for the controlled mixing of different compounds or for the separation of solids from liquids. The decanting funnel (which allows the amount of substance being filtered to be regulated with a handle) is particularly important.

12. Scale

Being able to accurately weigh what we are studying is basic in many scientific disciplines, which is why a scale or a balance (currently being mostly digital) are basic instruments.

13. Tweezers

Tweezers are very necessary in a laboratory, usually in order to hold some specific instrument or move some elements of the samples we are analyzing.

14. Scalpel

Especially in sciences such as medicine or chemistry, it may be necessary to make precise cuts to reach or separate a sample from the material to be analyzed (for example to make a biopsy). A scalpel can be useful in this respect.

15. Spatula

Similar in appearance to a round knife, it is a useful tool for collecting small solids in the form of dust.

16. Lima

Sometimes it may be necessary to file an object or material in order to remove a small sample or even to cut a particular material.

17. Spoon

Something as basic as a teaspoon is also a useful instrument in a laboratory, especially if we are making some kind of solution that requires the use of some chemical element in powder form.

18. Brush

The cleaning of the laboratory equipment, both before and after use, is something fundamental that in fact can greatly alter the results of the experiment or analysis. Therefore, a brush for cleaning flasks or test tubes, for example, is essential.

19. Wash bottle

Generally, in order to clean the material used, we will need more than just the brush, and it will be necessary to apply water to clean it. The washing bottle is usually filled with distilled water or some kind of alcohol, allowing a comfortable application on the instruments.

20. Lighter/Burner

In many experiments and with many substances and chemical reactions it may be necessary to heat the components to be used, or even to cause them to burn. Obviously, we are talking about our own laboratory equipment, not about those used in everyday life.

21. Thermometer

Knowing the temperature at which a substance or sample is present can be essential to be able to study it correctly or even to be able to preserve it (for example in the case of living organs or cells such as sperm). In this sense, the use of some kind of thermometer is useful.

22. Dropper

Another instrument that, although extremely simple, is common in different types of laboratories. However, it should be borne in mind that the amount of substance being expelled may be more or less precise and that different instruments may sometimes have the same function (such as the handle on a separating funnel).

23. Computer

This instrument may seem obvious, but the truth is that the computing capacity of a computer allows it to record and even automate specific processes to be used during experimentation with a level of precision and detail that could take a human being much longer to achieve.

Bibliographic references:

  • Atkins J. and Jones, L. (2012). Principles of Chemistry. Los caminos del descubrimiento, 5ª Ed. Editorial Médica Panamericana, Madrid.
  • Bawer JD. (1996). Clinical Analyses, Methods and Interpretation. Barcelona. Reverté Publishing House.

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