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Pipettes come in two varieties: volumetric and measuring. Volumetric pipettes are designed to transfer a specific, predetermined volume of liquid. They resemble simple glass tubes and cannot be used to accurately measure liquid amounts less than their specified capacity. Measuring pipettes, on the other hand, are calibrated with small divisions and are often adjustable, allowing users to accurately draw up however much liquid they desire. Measuring pipettes tend to be larger than volumetric pipettes, making them better for general use but less useful when transferring incredibly small volumes of liquid.
Regardless of the type of pipette being used, using them takes care and attention. To prevent damage when drawing in a liquid, place the pipette 1/4th of an inch from the bottom of your container. Then place your finger over the end or gently squeeze the bulb at the end, depending on the type of pipette. When the required volume has been drawn up, gently tap the side of the pipette to remove excess droplets. Then, hold the pipette at a 10 to 20 degree angle when dispensing. Do not blow through a pipette to remove excess liquid.
Pipettes require cleaning after every use, to ensure that they stay accurate and to prevent contamination from any previous contents. To clean one, draw distilled water into the pipette and tilt it, so that the water makes contact with the inside surface of the pipette. Repeat this process twice, then rinse the entire pipette with distilled water to finish cleaning it.
Using a pipette is one of the first skills you’ll learn in a biology or chemistry lab class. It might seem easy, but it’s important to get it right because you’ll use a pipette in many of your experiments, so if you consistently employ bad technique, it could ruin many of your results. There are three kinds of pipettes typically used in labs: Pasteur pipettes, volumetric pipettes and micropipettes. Volumetric pipettes are more common in chemistry laboratories, while micropipettes and Pasteur pipettes are indispensable in molecular biology and biochemistry labs.