Monthly Archives: August 2013

How to choose a Laboratory Oven.

Laboratory Ovens.

There are many models and styles of laboratory ovens available. Looking through laboratory catalogues it is sometimes difficult to decide where to begin in choosing a lab oven.

When choosing a laboratory oven you should consider the following:

Temperature-It’s best to choose an oven with a maximum temperature rating greater than your maximum temperature requirements. This will allow the set temperature to be maintained more accurately.

Laboratory Oven
Laboratory Oven

Circulation-Ovens use either gravity convection or mechanical draft (forced draft – ie fan) to heat the oven contents. It is possible for gravity convection ovens to have “cold” and/or “hot” spots as the air inside the oven can become stagnant. It depends on what you are doing as to whether it is critical to have a very uniform temperature.  Circulation depends on the difference in the air temperature within the oven. Typically, mechanical or forced draft ovens have fans that induce air flow through the oven to produce even heating.

Size-Sample container size, the number of samples and personal preference are important factors in properly sizing an oven. An oven with extra interior capacity might be nice to have but oversized ovens require more energy to heat, special electrical power and can take up valuable space in the laboratory. A number of smaller ovens rather than one large oven may be a good choice. Nevertheless, large ovens do have a place in the high-production laboratory or when large sample sizes are needed.

Lab Oven
Large capacity Lab oven

Controls-Digital controls as opposed to analogue controls allow the operator to easily set the temperature requirements and display the actual oven temperature.

Location-Choose your oven location carefully. Proper location can be a great time saver. Scales, balances and ovens are the most frequently used items in a lab. Placing them in the flow path of samples in the laboratory can save time and labour. Ovens are often placed along a wall, with the scales and balances located beside the oven or on a work table in front of the oven. Be sure to consider any exhaust requirements as well.

Drying Cabinet
Drying Cabinet

Motor protection– Should it be explosion-proof for volatile samples?

Mounting-Should it be a table top or floor mount model?
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Lithium (from Greek lithos ‘stone’) is a chemical element with symbol Li and atomic number 3. It is a soft, silver-white metal belonging to the alkali metal group of chemical elements. Under standard conditions it is the lightest metal and the least dense solid element. Like all alkali metals, lithium is highly reactive and flammable. For this reason, it is typically stored in mineral oil. When cut open, lithium exhibits a metallic lustre, but contact with moist air corrodes the surface quickly to a dull silvery grey, then black tarnish. Because of its high reactivity, lithium never occurs freely in nature, and instead, only appears in compounds, which are usually ionic.
Lithium is so soft it can be cut with scissors and it’s so light that it floats on water. But it’s also extremely reactive so it doesn’t stay shiny or silvery very long. For this reason, it is never found “in the wild” in its pure elemental form (on earth). Similar to helium, lithium has many uses, not the least of which are lithium-ion batteries, soldering flux and, since it burns a brilliant scarlet colour, it provides those spectacular red colours to fireworks. Lithium’s medicinal uses are among its most important attributes: it is critically important as a mood stabilizer for hundreds of thousands of people who find relief from the worst symptoms of bipolar disorder. Lithium also lessens symptoms for some migraine sufferers and for some who experience cluster headaches. How it works in the body remains elusive.

Trace amounts of lithium are present in all organisms. The element serves no apparent vital biological function, since animals and plants survive in good health without it. Non-vital functions have not been ruled out.


  • Ceramics and glass – Lithium oxide is a widely used flux for processing silica, reducing the melting point and viscosity of the material and leading to glazes of improved physical properties
  • Electrical and electronics – Commonly used in batteries
  • Lubricating greases
  • Metallurgy
  • Pyrotechnics – Fireworks
  • Medicine

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What is Rust?

Rust is composed of iron oxides. In colloquial usage, the term is applied to red oxides, formed by the reaction of iron and oxygen in the presence of water or air moisture. Other forms of rust exist, like the result of reactions between iron and chloride in an environment deprived of oxygen.

Given sufficient time, oxygen, and water, any iron mass will eventually convert entirely to rust and disintegrate. Surface rust is flaky and friable, and provides no protection to the underlying iron, unlike the formation of patina on copper surfaces. Rusting is the common term for corrosion of iron and its alloys, such as steel. Many other metals undergo equivalent corrosion, but the resulting oxides are not commonly called rust.

Iron oxide, the chemical Fe2O3, is common because iron combines very readily with oxygen — so readily, in fact, that pure iron is only rarely found in nature. Iron (or steel) rusting is an example of corrosion — an electrochemical process involving an anode (a piece of metal that readily gives up electrons), an electrolyte (a liquid that helps electrons move) and a cathode (a piece of metal that readily accepts electrons). When a piece of metal corrodes, the electrolyte helps provide oxygen to the anode. As oxygen combines with the metal, electrons are liberated. When they flow through the electrolyte to the cathode, the metal of the anode disappears, swept away by the electrical flow or converted into metal cations in a form such as rust.

­For iron to become iron oxide, three things are required: iron, water and oxygen.

When a drop of water hits an iron object, two things begin to happen almost immediately. First, the water, a good electrolyte, combines with carbon dioxide in the air to form a weak carbonic acid, an even better electrolyte. As the acid is formed and the iron dissolved, some of the water will begin to break down into its component pieces — hydrogen and oxygen. The free oxygen and dissolved iron bond into iron oxide, in the process freeing electrons. The electrons liberated from the anode portion of the iron flow to the cathode, which may be a piece of a metal less electrically reactive than iron, or another point on the piece of iron itself.

The chemical compounds found in liquids like acid rain, seawater and the salt-loaded spray from snow-bound roads make them better electrolytes than pure water, allowing their presence to speed the process of rusting on iron and other forms of corrosion on other metals.

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Distilled or Deionised Water? What’s the difference?

Many laboratory staff ask for purified water and use the terms distilled and deionised interchangeably.  However the actual products are different and are produced differently.

Most commonly now deionised water is supplied when people ask for purified water.

Purified water is water that is mechanically filtered or processed to be cleaned for consumption. Distilled water and deionised (DI) water have been the most common forms of purified water, but water can also be purified by other processes including Reverse osmosis, carbon filtration, microfiltration, ultrafiltration, ultraviolet oxidation, or electrodialysis.

Distilled water is produced by a process of distillation and has an electrical conductivity of not more than 11 µS/cm and total dissolved solids of less than 10 mg/litre.  Distillation involves boiling the water and then condensing the vapour into a clean container, leaving solid contaminants behind. Distillation produces very pure water. A white or yellowish mineral scale is left in the distillation apparatus, which requires regular cleaning. Distillation alone does not guarantee the absence of bacteria in drinking water unless containers are also sterilized. For many procedures more economical alternatives are available such as deionised water and, is used in place of distilled water.

Double distillation – Double-distilled water is prepared by double distillation of water. Historically, it was the de facto standard for highly purified laboratory water for biochemistry and, by the method of trace analysis until combination methods of purification became widespread.

A water still (Stuart Merit W4000)

Deionisation – Deionised water, also known as demineralised water, is water that has had its mineral ions removed, such as cations like sodium, calcium, iron, and copper, and anions such as chloride and sulfate. Deionisation is a chemical process that uses specially manufactured ion-exchange resins which exchange hydrogen ion and hydroxide ion for dissolved minerals, which then recombine to form water. Because the majority of water impurities are dissolved salts, deionisation produces a high purity water that is generally similar to distilled water, and this process is quick and without scale buildup. However, deionisation does not significantly remove uncharged organic molecules, viruses or bacteria, except by incidental trapping in the resin. Specially made strong base anion resins can remove Gram-negative bacteria. Deionisation can be done continuously and inexpensively using electrodeionisation.

Purite Labwater Deioniser

Outside of the laboratory deionised or distilled water is used to top us lead-acid car batteries although many units are now sealed.  Purified water is also used in freshwater and marine aquariums. As it doesn’t contain impurities such as copper and chlorine, it helps to keep fish free from diseases and avoids the build-up of algae on aquarium plants due to its lack of phosphate and silicate.

Deionised water is available from P&R Labpak in small through to large containers!  We can also supply equipment if you need to make your own.

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Why do Fireflies light up and how?

Fireflies or lightning bugs make light within their bodies. This process is called bioluminescence and is shared by many other organisms, mostly sea-living or marine organisms. Fireflies light up to attract a mate. To do this, the fireflies contain specialized cells in their abdomen that make light.

Light in adult beetles was originally thought to be used for similar warning purposes, but now its primary purpose is thought to be used in mate selection. Fireflies are a classic example of an organism that uses bioluminescence for sexual selection. They have a variety of ways to communicate with mates in courtships: steady glows, flashing, and the use of chemical signals unrelated to photic systems.

The cells contain a chemical called luciferin and make an enzyme called luciferase. To make light, the luciferin combines with oxygen to form an inactive molecule called oxyluciferin. The luciferase speeds up the reaction.

The wavelength of light given off is between 510 and 670 nanometers (pale yellow to reddish green colour). The cells that make the light also have uric acid crystals in them that help to reflect the light away from the abdomen. Finally, the oxygen is supplied to the cells through a tube in the abdomen called the abdominal trachea. It is not known whether the on-off switching of the light is controlled by nerve cells or the oxygen supply.


About 2,000 species of firefly are found in temperate and tropical environments. Many are in marshes or in wet, wooded areas where their larvae have abundant sources of food. These larvae emit light and often are called “glowworms”, in particular, in Eurasia.
Bioluminescence is used by many creatures.  It is used as a lure to attract prey by several deep sea fish such as the anglerfish below. A dangling appendage that extends from the head of the fish attracts small animals to within striking distance of the fish.

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