Laboratory Equipment: Bunsen Burner

A Bunsen burner is essentially a tube connected to a steady supply of flammable gas that is used in the laboratory to provide an adjustable open flame. The flame is used to sterilize inoculating loops and needles. Bent glass rods used for spreading liquid on agar plates and forceps are also sterilized with the flame. However, the glass rods and forceps are not heated to red hot, but dipped in alcohol and then the alcohol is burned off after brief contact with the flame.

Open flame is a safety hazard and must not be left unattended. Make sure your work area is clear, organized, and free from flammable materials. Be sure to remove any dangling or loose clothing and tie back long hair before using the Bunsen burner.

Following are the five steps for correctly using a bunsen burner:

1. Obtain a striker, and check to be sure that flint remains (black portion in video). To replace a worn flint, simply unscrew the old one and screw on a new one.
2. Listen carefully while you turn on the gas until you can just barely hear it flow. (If the gas is turned up too high, the flame will blow itself out.)
3. Immediately strike a spark over the Bunsen burner. The striker is designed for left-handed use. If you use your right hand, you may need to pull up with your thumb and push down with your fingers to obtain enough friction to cause a spark.
4. Adjust the air vents at the bottom of the Bunsen burner to obtain a bright blue cone of flame inside the larger, darker flame. The hottest part of the flame is at the top of the bright blue cone.
5. Turn off the burner when it is not in use.


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