Common Laboratory Apparatus With Their Uses

By Eric Dontigney

Just as a business person has an office and a crafts person has a shop, a scientist has a laboratory. Like any other workspace, a laboratory holds the tools of the trade. The apparatus found in any given laboratory will vary based on the field of research and level of the researchers, such as high school, collegiate or professional. Most general purpose laboratories will contain key pieces of apparatus, such as microscopes, beakers, and Bunsen burners.


Compound microscope

A compound microscope allows the user to view specimens too small for the human eye to discern. Slides hold the specimen and often come prepared and stained ahead of time. Slide preparation can also occur at the time of viewing. Items commonly observed with compound microscopes include plant or animal cells and bacteria. According to Meiji Techno, a microscope manufacturing company, some compound microscopes can also magnify inorganic materials.



Beakers serve multiple functions in a laboratory, according to Truman State University. At the most basic level, they hold samples for later use. They can be used to contain a small chemical reaction. In experiments that yield a liquid product, beakers are used to catch the liquid.

Bunsen Burners

Bunsen burner

A Bunsen burner serves to provide a ready source of heat in the laboratory. A typical Bunsen burner, according to Practical Chemistry, employs a tube in which a gas (such as methane) mixes with air. Once that gas is lit, an air hole in the tube allows the user to adjust the size of the flame.



Another common apparatus found in laboratories is the balance. A balance determines the mass of something, such as a dry chemical. While balances once used two flat trays--one to hold the material and the other to hold weights--electronic balances represent the norm in most laboratories.

Test Tube

Test tube

In the lab, test tubes typically hold samples or provide a small vessel for reactions, according to Truman State University. In experiments that require heating of the test tube, a test tube holder allows the user to move or hold the test tube safely.



Any laboratory that deals with experiments involving electricity or electronics will have a multimeter. Depending on the quality and type, multimeters can measure voltage, current and resistance. Most multimeters provide the option for measurements in alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC). Some may also provide capacitance and inductance measurements.