When setting up your chemistry laboratory, it’s important to ensure that you stock it with sufficient scientific equipment, allowing you to conduct your experiments thoroughly and safely. Here’s a guide to the basic equipment that any laboratory will need.
Safety equipment and supplies
The first thing that anyone should consider is safety equipment. Conducting chemistry experiments can be dangerous, so it’s important to ensure that you have all of the necessary supplies for if anything should go wrong.
A first aid kit is essential, and should contain items to treat all of the common issues and injuries that may be encountered in a laboratory environment. This includes antiseptic treatment and bandages, burn treatment and compresses, scissors and gloves. The kit should also be latex free (particularly the gloves) so that people can still be treated if they suffer from a latex allergy.
An eyewash station should be available in all laboratories, and everyone should be aware of its location. In the event of an accident, such as a chemical splash, eyewash should be used immediately to prevent any long-term damage. In addition to the eyewash station, many laboratories also have safety showers.
As well as a first aid kit, all laboratories should also have a fire extinguisher and fire blanket. This is especially important when flammable chemicals are being used, as the risk of a fire occurring increases significantly.
Spill neutraliser kits should also be available, to be used whenever chemicals have been spilled on the floor.
Equipment should be safe, fit for purpose, sturdy and reliable. Items such as oil free air compressors must be hygienic and well maintained. Using incorrect equipment can lead to a wealth of problems, especially if contamination in any form can interfere with experiment results.
Safety goggles are incredibly important, as they prevent substances from getting into the eye. Even harmless chemicals can damage the eyes, which are the most sensitive part of the body. Many chemicals have the potential to cause blindness, so it’s imperative that high quality safety goggles are available in all chemistry laboratories.
Protective clothing should also be worn to protect against any dangerous or corrosive chemicals. Even when you’re working with chemicals that aren’t harmful, it’s a good idea to protect your own clothing from unnecessary damage. Protective clothing consists of lab coats, gloves and shoe covers, and are available in a range of materials depending upon your requirements.
Spun-bound Melt-Blown Synthetic (SMS) is the most durable type of material, and offers the highest level of protection. This should be used when harmful chemicals are present, and is also designed to keep you cool. Basic protection is offered by polypropylene clothing. This is affordable, but will only protect against light splashes, so should be used with caution. The lowest level of protection is provided by polyethylene. This is traditionally only used as a temporary protection, so is good for use with visitors to the laboratory. It acts as a barrier to most fluids, and can be easily cut.
A wide range of laboratory glassware is available to support your experiments, and the exact types required would depend upon the nature of the experiments you wish to conduct in your laboratory.
Beakers are the most basic type of glassware, and are typically used to hold samples. They are generally wide containers, with open tops, so their use is limited within experiments.
Flasks are another type of glassware used to hold liquids, but offer more functionality when conducting experiments. They typically are conical containers, with a narrow mouth. This limits air exposure, and can easily be sealed if the experiment requires. If you are going to be heating chemicals, round-bottomed flasks are the best choice, as they enable the chemicals to be heated more evenly.
Other types of glassware commonly encountered in a chemistry laboratory include glass vials, which are small bottles typically used to hold samples, pipettes, which are used to transfer small amounts of a chemical from one container to another, and condensers, which are used to cool hot liquids and condense gases. More specialised glassware can be purchased depending upon the nature of your experiments.
Of course, in order to conduct any experiments you will need to stock your laboratory with the necessary apparatus. Bunsen burners are the most iconic piece of laboratory equipment, and are commonly used to heat chemicals during experiments, as well as sterilisation and combustion. When choosing a Bunsen burner, it’s important to consider the type of gas that you’d like to use. The common choices are methane, which is a natural gas, or liquefied petroleum, such as propane and butane.
Again, the experimental equipment that you require will depend upon the nature of your experiments. The most common types of equipment are things like precision scales and balances, which are essential for weighing items to ensure precise quantities are used, a pestle and mortar, which can be used to grind down samples, and a microscope.