The Bunsen Burner
Robert Wilhelm Bunsen (1811-1899), a German chemist and inventor is credited with inventing the Bunsen burner, a gas burner used in scientific laboratories.
With Gustav R. Kirchhoff they pioneered work with spectrum analysis, inventing the spectroscope to detect chemicals by the colours they give off when burning. Using this instrument, they discovered the elements caesium (1860) and rubidium (1861).
Bunsen improved the efficiency of blast furnaces after observing gases escaping from them and devising a method of gas analysis. His other inventions include the ice calorimeter, a filter pump, a zinc-carbon electric cell, and the magnesium light. With Sir Henry Roscoe he did important work in the field of photochemistry.
The Bunsen Burner is used for heating chemicals, boiling water, sterilising small objects, preparing microscopic slides, bending glass tubing, and many other purposes.
The Bunsen burner consists of a straight metal tube, about five inches (13 cm) long, fastened to a stand. The bottom is connected by rubber tubing to a source of illuminating gas. Adjustable openings at the base of the burner admit air. The mixture of gas and air produces a very hot flame. Nozzles of various types can be fitted to the top of the burner to control the flame’s shape.
This is a method of detecting the presence of certain metals by the colours they give off in the flame of a Bunsen burner. A platinum or nichrome wire is dipped in a powder or solution of the compound to be tested, and the compound is then placed in the flame. Barium gives a green flame; calcium, orange; caesium, blue; copper, greenish blue; potassium, violet.
If more than one metal is present, the test is unreliable as one colour obscures another. Except in rough, preliminary analyses, the flame test is little used by chemists. There are more precise methods of identifying elements.
Other burners based on the same principle exist. The most important alternatives to the Bunsen burner are:
The lower part of its tube is conical, with a round screw nut below its base. The gap, set by the distance between the nut and the end of the tube, regulates the influx of the air in a way similar to the open slots of the Bunsen burner. The Teclu burner provides better mixing of air and fuel and can achieve higher flame temperatures than the Bunsen burner.
The lower part of its tube has more openings with larger total cross-section, admitting more air and facilitating better mixing of air and gas. The tube is wider and its top is covered with a wire grid. The grid separates the flame into an array of smaller flames with a common external envelope, and also prevents flashback to the bottom of the tube, which is a risk at high air-to-fuel ratios and limits the maximum rate of air intake in a conventional Bunsen burner. Flame temperatures of up to 1100–1200 °C (2000–2200 °F) are achievable if properly used. The flame also burns without noise, unlike the Bunsen or Teclu burners
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