The Erlenmeyer Flask, also commonly known as the conical flask or titration flask was designed and named after the German chemist Richard August Carl Emil Erlenmeyer.
Erlenmeyer Flasks have a wide, flat bottom and an inverted cylindrical neck. The mouth of the flask is rimmed, which aids easy pouring, and they can also be used for storage of liquids by adding a rubber stopper. They are one of the most common types of laboratory glassware in use today thanks to their broad range of applications.
The Erlenmeyer Flask – Common Uses
Erlenmeyer flasks are available in a wide range of sizes starting at 50ml up to 1000ml as standard. Bespoke sizes can be created if needed, with the help of scientific glassblower. The different sizes available make them a useful addition to almost any laboratory. Both chemistry and biology will use the Erlenmeyer flask for a number of different functions.
Use in Biology
In both biology and chemistry, the main primary function of the Erlenmeyer Flask is to mix liquids. Although a scale of measurement is printed in the side of a flask, they are rarely used for measuring purposes due to their uneven sides.
Within the field of biology, the flasks are used for the formulation of microbial cultures. Erlenmeyer flasks used for this purpose often have additional features such as vented closures to boost gas exchange during cultivation and shaking.
Use in Chemistry
The unique shape of the Erlenmeyer flask, with it’s angled sides, and slim neck allow liquids to be mixed by swirling without risk of spiling the contents. This ability makes them suitable for titrations by positioning it below a burette.
Erlenmeyer flasks can also be used to perform boiling reactions. The conical shape means that hot vapour will condense in the neck of the flask, which prevents solvent loss. However, as Erlenmeyer flasks are constructed of relatively thin glass, the temperatures they are subjected to has to be carefully controlled, or they may break as a result of thermal shock.
No modern-day lab is complete without an Erlenmeyer flask. Their wide range of applications, especially storage, makes them useful for almost all laboratory settings.