So it’s the last day of March, and we celebrate Bunsen Burner Day. Anyone who did chemistry in high school will remember the trusty Bunsen burner, a staple tool in avery chemistry lab, and more often than not a key part in some seriously derailed chemistry experiments.
Bunsen Burner Day is celebrated on 31 March in honour of Robert Wilhelm Eberhard von Bunsen (31 March 1811 – 16 August 1899), German chemistry professor and inventor of various pieces of laboratory equipment, including the Bunsen burner. The science behind the way a Bunsen burner works is similar to that used in gas stoves and gas furnaces. The burner is connected via a tube to a container with flammable gas, and as the burner is opened, the gas flows through a small hole in the bottom of the burner’s barrel. Openings in the side of the tube allow air into the gas stream, and the mixture is ignited by a spark or flame at the top of the tube. The amount of air mixed in with the gas can be controlled by opening or closing the gaps at the base of the barrel – as the amount of air is increased up to an optimal point, the combustion becomes more complete, resulting in a hotter flame – as it heats up, the flame becomes blue and transparent, becoming almost invisible at its optimal level.
To this day, Bunsen burners remain a laboratory staple, and it is used on a daily basis in literally thousands of laboratories around the world.