Bunsen Burner

The Invention of a Bunsen Burner and its Working Explained

The Bunsen burner plays a major role in many experiments conducted in a chemical laboratory. This article includes information regarding its working and invention.
ScienceStruck Staff
Last Updated: Jul 16, 2017
Time to go back to college. Remember those chemistry practicals where we used a special device for heating and combustion, while conducting different experiments? The name of that apparatus is Bunsen burner. Today, your children may not be using it for their science experiments, as it has been replaced by electric hot plates in many institutes. An electric hot plate produces more balanced heat without having much inflammability, but the Bunsen burner is still popular and widely used by experienced scientists.


A Bunsen burner is essentially a small gas burner, with an adjustable flame. The size of the flame depends on the amount of gas it receives, and this amount of gas can be controlled and manipulated manually with the help of nozzle, that is situated at the base of the apparatus. Barrel, collar, gas flow valve, gas intake tube, and base, are its core parts. The design of this burner is very simple and user-friendly. It includes a vertical metal tube that is connected to the base. The base has a nozzle that connects to gas flow valve as well as the gas source. Using this nozzle, one can adjust the amount of gas that needs to be passed thought the tube which ultimately helps in controlling the temperature. When the gas is released, it reacts with the oxygen that is present at the bottom of the tube, and flows upwards to the top of the burner, where you can light it with a match stick or a lighter.

A Bunsen burner is used in the process of sterilization, heating, and combustion, of various substances in the laboratory. It is one of the most common, in fact, the primary laboratory equipment, of the chemistry lab. Though it might seem very easy to use this apparatus, it is essential to learn from your instructors or teachers, about how to use it safely for better and accurate results.


The story behind this high utility burner and its name is quite interesting. Many of you may have concluded by now that it got its name from the person who designed or invented it. If yes, then you are wrong. Though it is named after Robert Bunsen, he is not the inventor of this device. There is a long story behind this, which I will tell you in brief. In 1852, Bunsen, a well-known chemist in Germany, was working with the University of Heidelberg, as a laboratory supervisor. He observed that flammable burners cause inconvenience while conducting experiments, and interfere with the actual result of an experiment. Apart from that, safety was also his concern. He then asked the laboratory assistant, Peter Desaga, to design a new burner that will produce even, clean, non luminous, and controllable air. He also provided him a rough design of the apparatus. Soon many of his colleagues adopted this design, and it became universal in all the laboratories.