P&R Labpak - Everything for your laboratory

P&R Labpak - Everything for your laboratory
Our Head Office in St Helens

Friday, 17 October 2014

pH Indicators

A pH indicator is a colour changing (or halochromic) chemical compound that is added in small amounts to a solution so that the pH (acidity or basicity) of the solution can be determined visually.
A pH indicator is a chemical detector for hydronium ions (H3O+) or hydrogen ions (H+).  Normally, the indicator causes the colour of the solution to change depending on the pH.

pH (potential of hydrogen) is a scale of acidity from 0 to 14. It tells how acidic or alkaline a substance is. More acidic solutions have lower pH. More alkaline solutions have higher pH. Substances which are not acidic or alkaline (neutral) usually have a pH of 7. Acids have a pH less than 7. Alkalis have a pH greater than 7.

pH indicator solutions are themselves weak acids or bases.  As one chemical is added it changes the arrangement of the electrons in the molecule causing it to absorb different wavelengths of light and therefore appear different in colour.

Different chemicals can be used for different pH ranges as shown in the diagram below.
pH indicators are frequently employed in titrations in analytical chemistry and biology to determine the extent of a chemical reaction. Because of the subjective choice (determination) of colour, pH indicators are susceptible to imprecise readings. For applications requiring precise measurement of pH, a pH meter is frequently used.
Many plants or plant parts contain chemicals from the naturally-coloured anthocyanin family of compounds. They are red in acidic solutions and blue in basic. Anthocyanins can be extracted with water or other solvents from a multitude of coloured plants or plant parts, including from leaves (red cabbage); flowers (geranium, poppy, or rose petals); berries (blueberries, blackcurrant); and stems (rhubarb). Extracting anthocyanins from household plants, especially red cabbage, to form a crude pH indicator is a popular introductory chemistry demonstration.
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Friday, 10 October 2014

On this day......Aspirin

On the 10th October 1897 German chemist Felix Hoffmann discovered an improved way of synthesizing acetylsalicylic acid or 'aspirin'.

Around c400 BC Hippocrates in Greece gives women willow leaf tea to relieve the pain of childbirth.  In 1763 Reverend Edward Stone of Chipping Norton near Oxford gives dried willow bark to 50 parishioners suffering rheumatic fever and describes his findings in a letter to the Royal Society of London.  In 1823 the active ingredient is extracted from willow and named salicin.  Salicylic acid is made from salicin by French scientists in 1853 butis found to irritate the gut.  In 1893 German scientists find that adding an acetyl group to salicylic acid reduces its irritant properties and in 1897 in Germany, Bayer's Felix Hoffmann develops and patents a process for synthesising acetyl salicylic acid or aspirin. First clinical trials begin.

Aspirin is often used as an analgesic to relieve minor aches and pains, as an antipyretic to reduce fever, and as an anti-inflammatory medication.

Aspirin is now accepted as an important weapon in the prevention of heart disease. A single dose of 300 mg is now recommended for patients in the acute stages of a heart attack followed by a daily dose of 75-100 mg. A similar low dose treatment regime is recommended for patients with angina, a history of heart problems or who have undergone coronary by pass surgery.

Aspirin is also used in other medical situations:-

  • Strokes - to reduce the risk

  • Pregnancy Complications - Pre-eclampsia and foetal growth retardation, both caused by blockages of the blood vessels of the placenta, are two of the commonest complications of pregnancy - aspirin helps to reduce this risk.
  • Colon cancer - In a long term study of 90,000 US nurses between 1976 and 1995, those who took 4-6 tablets of aspirin a week had a reduced incidence of colorectal cancer. The benefits were greatest in those who had taken the drugs the longest.
  • Diabetes - Blindness, coronary artery disease, stroke and kidney failure are all common complications of diabetes resulting from impaired blood circulation. The benefits of taking one aspirin a day are now so widely accepted that it is considered unethical to perform placebo controlled trials to prove the case.
  • Dementia (including Alzheimer's disease)- There is some evidence that aspirin may help prevent both the condition resulting from impaired blood flow and the most serious form of dementia, Alzheimer's disease.
The most common use is as a painkiller for headaches or fevers.

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Friday, 3 October 2014


Zinc is a metallic chemical element; it has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element of group 12 of the periodic table. It’s the 24th most abundant element in the Earth's crust and has five stable isotopes. The most common zinc ore is sphalerite (zinc blende), a zinc sulfide mineral. The largest mineable amounts are found in Australia, Asia, and the United States.

Brass, which is an alloy of copper and zinc, has been used since at least the 10th century BC.

Zinc is an essential mineral of "exceptional biologic and public health importance".  Zinc deficiency affects about two billion people in the developing world and is associated with many diseases.  In children it causes growth retardation, delayed sexual maturation, infection susceptibility, and diarrhoea, contributing to the death of about 800,000 children worldwide per year.

The metal is most commonly used as an anti-corrosion agent.  Galvanization, which is the coating of iron or steel to protect the metals against corrosion, is the most familiar form of using zinc in this way.  Zinc is more reactive than iron or steel and thus will attract almost all local oxidation until it completely corrodes away.  A protective surface layer of oxide and carbonate forms as the zinc corrodes.  This protection lasts even after the zinc layer is scratched but degrades through time as the zinc corrodes away.  The zinc is applied electrochemically or as molten zinc by hot-dip galvanizing or spraying. Galvanization is used on chain-link fencing, guard rails, suspension bridges, light posts, metal roofs, heat exchangers, and car bodies.

Zinc Oxide used in paint pigments

Zinc is useful for the human body and helps speed up the healing process after an injury.  It is also suspected of being beneficial to the body's immune system. Indeed, zinc deficiency may have effects on virtually all parts of the human immune system.

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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The New OHAUS Adventurer Preview

Our blog is normally reserved for science news & facts and other interesting things!  However we thought we'd share this video featuring the new range of Ohaus Adventurer balances.  With dual USB ports, one at the front and one at the back connectivity is easy.  With colour touchscreen, fast stabilisation and accuracy these balances are worth a look.  Visit our website news page on the link below to download a brochure.

Visit http://www.prlabs.co.uk/news/article.php?Id=314

Friday, 26 September 2014

Flamin' hot colours!

Back in your school days there was probably an experiment where you placed a small amount of a compound into a flame and observed it's colour.  This is the flame test and depending on the colour observed it can tell you what elements are present.

Scientifically put, A flame test is an analytic procedure used in chemistry to detect the presence of certain elements, primarily metal ions, based on each element's characteristic emission spectrum. The colour of flames in general also depends on temperature.

The test involves introducing a sample of the element or compound to a hot, non-luminous flame, and observing the colour of the flame that results. The idea of the test is that sample atoms evaporate and since they are hot, they emit light when being in flame.

The flame test is relatively quick and simple to perform, and can be carried out with the basic equipment found in most chemistry laboratories. However, the range of elements positively detectable under these conditions is small, as the test relies on the subjective experience of the experimenter rather than any objective measurements. The test has difficulty detecting small concentrations of some elements, while too strong a result may be produced for certain others, which tends to cause fainter colours to not appear.

Metal Ion Flame Tests-Click to enlarge
The table above from www.compoundchem.com shows the range of colours chemicals produce.  These tests work better for some metal ions than other; in particular, those ions shown on the bottom row of the infographic are generally quite faint and hard to distinguish. Sodium’s flame colour is also very strong, and can easily mask the colours of other metal ions.

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Friday, 19 September 2014

Sodium Hypochlorite

Sodium hypochlorite is a chemical compound with the formula NaClO. It is composed of a sodium cation (Na+) and a hypochlorite anion (ClO−); it may also be viewed as the sodium salt of hypochlorous acid. When dissolved in water it is commonly known as bleach or liquid bleach, and is frequently used as a disinfectant or a bleaching agent.

Click to enlarge

Potassium hypochlorite was first produced in 1789 by Claude Louis Berthollet in his laboratory on the quay Javel in Paris, France, by passing chlorine gas through a solution of potash lye. The resulting liquid, known as "Eau de Javel" ("Javel water"), was a weak solution of potassium hypochlorite. Antoine Labarraque replaced potash lye by the cheaper soda lye, thus obtaining sodium hypochlorite (Eau de Labarraque).

Various methods have been used since to produce this but the modern method, the Hooker process, is the only one producing this in any bulk capacity.

Sodium Hypochlorite has many uses as can be seen above:-

In bleach cleaning products and to remove stains.
In Swimming pools as a disinfectant.
In Antibacterial sprays
To neutralise nerve agents
To reduce skin damage - using very low concentrations.

Sodium Hypochlorite although used in household bleach is not the only component.  There is often Sodium Hydroxide and Calcium Hypochlorite amongst others.  it must be remembered not to mix household cleaning products as some may contain hydrochloric acid. If these are mixed with bleach, it can react with sodium hypochlorite, and form toxic chlorine gas

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Friday, 12 September 2014


Mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is commonly known as quicksilver and was formerly named hydrargyrum (from Greek "hydr-" water and "argyros" silver)

Mercury is remarkable because it is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature. It is a dense, lustrous grey metal. Mercury is extremely rare in the Earth's crust and in the wild, it typically is concentrated near volcanically active areas, either as the pure metal or in a number of minerals.
Mercury is used in thermometers, barometers, manometers, sphygmomanometers, float valves, mercury switches, mercury relays, fluorescent lamps and other devices, though concerns about the element's toxicity have led to mercury thermometers and sphygmomanometers being largely phased out in clinical environments in favour of alternatives such as alcohol- or galinstan-filled glass thermometers and thermistor- or infrared-based electronic instruments.
The reason mercury was so popular is because it readily forms stable amalgams with a number of other metals, particularly silver and gold, making them workable at lower temperatures, and these amalgams have been the source of many instances of mercury poisoning.
Amalgam Filling
Biologists are quite interested in mercury because it is highly toxic to life, causing both acute and chronic poisoning. Mercury can be absorbed through the skin and mucous membranes and mercury vapors can be inhaled. Mercury is concentrated in the body over the lifetime of the individual, and it also becomes more concentrated when one animal eats another, which is how it moves up the food chain. This is the reason why the flesh of tuna, a long-lived apex predator in the oceans, contain such high levels of mercury.
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