The stringent requirements of chemical science demand the highest-quality, most precise glassware for use in the lab. The translucence, heat-resistance, and inert qualities of glass make it the best material to use for many tasks. Of the many kinds of glass available, borosilicate glass withstands thermal shock and chemical attack better than most others. It is the same kind of glass that is used in kitchens for baking and roasting. It is as versatile as other glass, too, and can be made into the types of glassware used most in labs.
What They Are
Two of the most recognizable types of chemistry glassware are the beakers and flasks. No mad scientist movie would be complete without them. Beakers are used for mixing, measuring, and boiling. Flasks are also used for boiling and some have a flat bottom while others some have a rounded bottom. The rounded ones are clamped by the neck and suspended over a flame. Erlenmeyer flasks are usually used for measuring, storing, and mixing. Other types of flasks are preferable for boiling. The wide base and narrow neck make flasks easy to stop up and very versatile. Filter flasks can be used with funnels or a vacuum assembly.
Glass burets are used for small amounts of liquids have to be measured accurately. Although they are not subjected to high heats, this type of chemistry glassware needs to be able to stand up to any type of chemical without altering its makeup. For this reason glass funnels are also found in the lab. Graduated cylinders hold and measure liquid, and pipets are accurate measuring devices. In addition to its ability to withstand chemical compounds, glass pipets are able to be sterilized in an autoclave and reused.
Nearly all labs use test tubes which are the most common type of chemistry glassware. Watch glasses are small concave dishes that can be used as lids for beakers, to contain invertebrates for microscopic viewing or for dissolving crystals and powders. Their versatility makes glass the material of choice. When handling chemistry glassware, goggles, and gloves should always be used. All liquids should be considered dangerous unless they are absolutely known to be safe. Glass looks the same whether it is hot or cold, so gloves will protect your hands even if the glass is too hot or too cold to handle safely. Even borosilicate glass is not indestructible and laboratory work is strenuous. When any glass breaks, dispose of it carefully, as most broken glass is very sharp and chemistry glassware can be covered in any type of dangerous chemical.