What is a laboratory water bath?

A water bath is laboratory equipment that is designed with a container filled with hot water. This equipment is used to incubate samples in water at a constant temperature for a long period of time. Among its uses we have the heating of reagents, fusion of substrates or incubation of cell cultures.

It is also used to carry out certain chemical reactions that occur at high temperatures. The preferred water bath in laboratories is a heat source to heat flammable chemicals rather than an open flame to avoid contact. Different types of water baths are used depending on the application and all water baths can be used up to 99 ° C. When the temperature is above 100 ° C, there are other alternative methods such as an oil bath.

How is a water bath constituted?

The water baths consist of a tank made of stainless material, which has in its lower part a set of electrical resistances, by means of which heat is transferred to the water, which is kept at a preselected temperature through a control device. thermocouple, thermostat, thermistor or similar, which allows selecting the required temperature to carry out the different analyzes or laboratory tests.

All water baths today have an analog or digital interface, allowing users to set the desired temperature. Regarding the resistances of the water baths, these can be of two types:

  • These are generally installed inside a sealed tube and are located at the bottom of the container and are in direct contact with the medium to be heated.
  • External: This type of heating element transfers heat to the bottom of the tank through thermal conduction. They are located in the lower part, but they are external to the tank; They are protected by an insulating material to avoid heat losses.

As mentioned, a water bath has an external body where the controls are located, which is made of steel and is generally covered with electrostatic paint with high adherence and resistance to the laboratory environment.

Recommendations for the use of the water bath in the laboratory

Before starting to use the water bath, check that it is clean and that the accessories to be used are installed. And then you normally proceed with the following steps:

  • Fill the bath with the water to be used to keep the temperature uniform. Check that, once the containers to be heated have been placed, their level is between 4 and 5 cm from the upper edge of the tank.
  • Install control instruments, such as thermometers and stirrers, when these are required. Check the position of the thermometer bulb or the temperature probe to ensure that the readings are correct.
  • Check that the water being used is highly clean.
  • Set the main switch to the on position.
  • Mark the desired operating temperature.
  • Select the cut-off temperature in those baths that have this control. This is a safety control that cuts off the power supply, if the selected temperature is exceeded.
  • You should avoid using the water bath with substances such as: bleaches, liquids with high chlorine content, weak saline solutions such as sodium chloride, calcium chloride or chromium compounds, strong concentrations of any acid, strong concentrations of any salt, and water deionized, as it causes corrosion and also perforations in stainless steel.

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