When it comes to measuring volume, there is a vast array of laboratory glassware available.

But why?

Is there really a need for all the different sizes and shapes when you consider they all perform largely the same function, which is to hold liquids.

The majority of glassware pieces used in a lab will also have graduations allowing the user to measure the volume of liquid in the receptacle.

However, despite the similarities of scientific glassware, there are certain pieces used for specific purposes. We take a look at some of the most commonly used laboratory glassware items and explain their functions;

Measuring Volume

Beakers and Flasks

Whether you walk into a school science lab or a high-end research laboratory, one item of glassware you’re almost guaranteed to see are beakers and flasks.

Both of these items are primarily used for storage of liquids rather than measuring volume. They come in a broad range of sizes and are relatively low in cost.

Beakers are generally little more than glass jars that have a small spout that is used for pouring out the contents. Most beakers will have graduations marked on the outside, but they lack accuracy, and therefore beakers should not be relied upon when precision is vital.

Erlenmeyer flask, otherwise known as conical flasks, have a wide flat bottom and an inverted cylindrical neck. They have rimmed mouth to make pouring easier and rubber stoppers can be used to seal the flask. As well as storage, Erlenmeyer flasks are used for mixing liquids as their narrow necks reduce the risk of spillage.

Graduated Cylinders

Graduated cylinders are made specifically for measuring volume. As such they have markings on the outside which allow for accurate measurements to be obtained.

They are available in a comprehensive range of sizes from 5ml at the lowest end up to 2000ml. A wide flat bottom ensures stability and a small spout helps when pouring the contents of the cylinder.

The level of measurement accuracy is better than that of a beaker or flask. However, there can be a 1% discrepancy. If a highly accurate measurement is required, then a graduated cylinder may not be suitable.


Burettes, along with Pipettes, come under a category of product known as volumetric glassware and are highly accurate when it comes to measuring volumes.

They are cylindrical in shape and have graduations printed on the outside. They are used for measuring smaller volumes of liquids and come in standard sizes of 10ml, 50ml and 100ml.

Unlike the other items on this list, burettes have a stopcock or valve at the bottom that allows the contents to drain out. They are used for experiments that require a high degree of accuracy, such as titration experiments.

Measuring Volume – Summary

The item of scientific glassware you choose will depend upon the level of accuracy you need to achieve in your experiments. If you are unsure which type of piece you require or would like to discuss a bespoke item, then please get in touch with our team. Our expert scientific glass blowers have many years of experience in creating custom made items and can advise on which type of glassware will be most suitable to accomplish your aims.