What Can Be Used to Measure the Volume of a Liquid?

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The volume of a liquid can be measured in the lab with a beaker, graduated cylinder, burets, pipette or micropipette. The instrument used depends on the actual volume of the liquid and the desired degree of accuracy.

Laboratory glassware of this type is called volumetric glassware and it is marked on the sides with units of measure. Some instruments are designed primarily to hold liquids, while others are designed to measure accurately and dispense liquids.

Flasks and beakers are typically used to hold liquids. The indicated measurements are designed to be approximate with a margin of error. The markings or calibrations on a graduated cylinder are more precise and accurate, but should not be used if the cylinder is less than 50 percent full. The important thing to remember about beakers, flasks and cylinders is that the volume of the liquid may be measured, but if it is poured out, a certain amount will remain in the vessel. Therefore, 500 milliliters of a liquid may be measured but slightly less than that amount will pour out.

Burets and pipettes, in contrast, are designed to deliver precise amounts of liquid and will account for the small amount of liquid that will still stay inside the pipette or buret, but the amount dispensed will be exact.