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Bunsen Burner

The Bunsen burner, named after and co-designed by Robert Bunsen in 1854, is a common laboratory instrument that can be used to provide a single, continuous flame by mixing gas with air in a controlled fashion. The ratio of gas to air that is mixed together can be manually adjusted, allowing the user to control the intensity, temperature, and size of the flame. The flame can then be used to heat or sterilize laboratory reagents and equipment.

Metal instruments sometimes need to be quickly sterilized before use or between steps of an experiment. Metal spatulas and inoculation loops, for example, are frequently sterilized between bacterial samples. Scissors and forceps can be dipped into alcohol and then flamed for rapid sterilization before surgery.  Glass instruments, such as serological pipettes, are also frequently briefly flame-sterilized before and between each use.

The Bunsen burner flame can be used to help maintain a sterile field around the openings of experimental containers. By briefly flaming the neck of the container a heat, or convection, current is created. The convection current lifts any particles in the air away from the container’s opening, preventing potential contamination by airborne particulates. Convection currents also serve to lift particulates in the air away from the experimental area, so the Bunsen Burner helps to keep the area around the experiment, sterile. For microscopy, glass slides are sometimes passed through a Bunsen burner flame to remove any dust particles before samples are mounted.

The Bunsen Burner can be used to heat and modify glass and metal tools. A thin glass rod can be carefully heated and then bent while the glass is still hot, to make a bacterial culture spreader.  They also have applications for pulling pipettes, bending pipettes, polishing glass capillary tubes, making glass dissection needles, and sealing a wire pick into a glass pipette.


All Bunsen burners are made up of the same basic components:

  • The barrel, or burner tube, where the air and gas mix
  • The collar, located at the bottom of the barrel.  This can be adjusted to control the air intake and the heat of the flame
  • The air vent openings in the collar draw in air by the Venturi Effect
  • The needle, or gas flow valve, located at the bottom of the barrel and is screwed into the base of the Bunsen burner. Adjusting the needle valve allows the size of the flame to be controlled

The barrel is screwed into a base, which keeps the Bunsen burner stable and remains cool to allow safe relocation of the instrument during or after use.

The gas inlet connects the Bunsen burner to the LPG/propane gas jet through a rubber gas intake tube. A spark lighter is commonly used for igniting the combustion of the gas and air.


  • LPG/Propane has a higher calorific value or energy content compared to natural gas fueld Bunsen Burners.  So less LPG/propane gas is required to produce the same amount of heat
  • LPG/Propane requires an oxygen to gas ratio of approximately 25:1 whilst natural gas Bunsen Burners require a ratio of around 10:1.  
  • LPG/Propane is readily available, affordable and can easily be stored