How a Safety Bunsen Burner Works

Find out about the features that can make your lab safer


FIREBOY Safety Bunsen burnerFIREBOY Safety Bunsen burner.Image courtesy of INTEGRA


Problem: The Bunsen burner is a common laboratory tool used for combustion, heating and sterilization. The burner is named after Robert Bunsen, a German scientist who, in order to improve the laboratory burners then in use, developed it together with his laboratory assistant, Peter Desaga. At that time Heidelberg had just began to install coal-gas street lighting and thus laboratory buildings were also supplied with gas. 

Flame sterilization remained until now a routine task carried out in many microbiological, clinical, and life science laboratories. Bunsen burners provide a flame with temperatures up to 1,200°C. Natural gas (primarily methane), liquefied petroleum gas such as propane, butane, or a mixture of both are used as fuels.

Traditionally, Bunsen burners have been used as the standard equipment for routine flame sterilization work. However, the danger of working with alcohol burners, ordinary gas cookers, or traditional Bunsen burners connected to a gas distribution system should not be underestimated. A major source of danger is posed by leaking systems, causing highly flammable gas to escape. Furthermore, accidents are caused by unattended burners and the fact that the hot blue flame is often barely visible.

Accidents caused by burners are relatively rare, but when they do occur they are often devastating, resulting in severe injuries or fires. It’s no wonder that safety officers are keen to encourage laboratory staff to avoid open flames whenever possible.

Solution: However, there is a safe alternative. Safety Bunsen burners were developed to reduce the dangers described above. The following features make them safe burners:

Flame monitoring: To prevent dangerous gas leakage, safety Bunsen burners automatically try to reignite the flame if it accidentally extinguishes. Should it for any reason fail to do so, safety burners will interrupt the gas supply reliably.

User-defined maximum burning time: An automatic shut off after a user-defined maximum burning time eliminates any danger if the Bunsen burner is unintentionally left on. Thus, gas flows only if the flame is consciously ignited. Moreover, a short burning time reduces the risk of burns.

Alarm display feature: An alarm display on the graphical user interface indicates that the burner head is still hot in order to protect the operator from burns.

The FIREBOY Bunsen burner from INTEGRA is an example of an intrinsically safe alternative to the traditional Bunsen burner connected to a laboratory gas supply. Advanced temperature protection, flame monitor, and alarm display features serve to protect both the operator and operating environment. To prevent un-ignited gas leakage, the FIREBOY automatically tries to reignite the flame if it accidentally extinguishes. Should it for any reason fail to do so, the unit will interrupt the gas supply. An automatic shut off after a user-defined maximum burning time eliminates any danger if the unit is unintentionally left on. Operating from a wide range of gas cartridges and powered from a battery, the robustly-designed FIREBOY can be used wherever lab professionals wish.

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Categories: How it Works

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Published: November 13, 2015

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