November 1, 2021

The funnel is a commonly used instrument used both in a specialized way and in everyday life. It is used to channel a flow of liquid commonly into containers. The funnel is an extremely old instrument, to the point of having representations in popular culture, for example the symbol of the inverted funnel that symbolizes “madness”.

The origin of the word “funnel” comes from Latin and referred to “conduit”. This instrument can be made of different materials and sizes, you will also notice that within the laboratory it has different functions and therefore modifications in its design.

What is a Funnel?

The funnel is a hollow instrument with two ends, one wide and one narrow. Its shape is conical although the narrow part looks more like a cylinder. Laboratory funnels, being part of the equipment that must have contact with chemical substances, are made of glass; as this material has chemical inertness.

Chemical inertness corresponds to compounds with high molecular stability and therefore they do not react chemically with substances, at least not easily. However, there are also non-reactive polyethylene, although these are used in non-corrosive substances, mostly aqueous solutions, substances with a higher proportion of solvent in their composition, having as a rule that this is water.

What is a funnel for?

Funnels are instruments that allow the transfer of substances , but why would this be needed? Well, you may have come across cases in which you need to move a liquid from one container to another but when you do so you spill it or it becomes a cumbersome procedure due to the difference in their sizes.

With great care and concentration you can try not to spill it but when working with corrosive chemicals, pollutants or you simply need to keep the area sterilized, you cannot afford that type of accident.

The funnel thus appears as the ideal solution , since thanks to its design with a wide and a narrow end, it acts as a channel regardless of the difference in size of the containers. It is also common to use them for filtering, by adding filter paper in the transfer of the liquid.

Funnel uses

The use that is given to this laboratory material depends on the type of funnel. Certainly you are probably familiar with the regular funnel that is common to see in homes, but when talking about the laboratory funnel, one is required for each possible function that is going to be given to it. This is because the conditions required by the substances can vary and will have to be adapted.

Apart from the use to transfer substances, there is the use of filtering . The one specialized for solids that controls the transfer speed and even for decantations, which is a method of separating substances, be it a liquid from another or a liquid from a solid, situations in which different funnels are necessary.

Funnel Types

The funnel is a very useful instrument, so it is not surprising that it has been adapted to be used in each of the applications that are required in the different conditions that arise in the laboratory. For this reason, you now have several types of funnel, based on the classic model used over time. Among these you find:

  • Flat funnel

The commonly used regular funnel usually made of glass. Its measurements vary, being in different presentations.

  • Filtration funnel

It is used to separate solids from liquids through filtration, a process in which the solids are suspended on a porous surface. To carry out the filtration, filter paper is added to these. They are usually made of plastic or glass and you must be careful with certain substances that can clog the filter.

  • Embudo Büchner

This is a subtype of filter funnels, specifically used for vacuum filtration. It is made of porcelain, it can be found in plastic but porcelain is preferable for the medium in which it is used. In its design is integrated a cylinder separated by a plate with holes for filtering.

  • Addition funnel

These funnels allow to control the flow of the liquid through stopcocks, this is necessary when an abrupt transfer of the substance could cause reactions in it. They are made of glass and have a ground glass gasket to fit perfectly with the transfer container.

  • Funnel of decanting

Made in glass, it is used to separate immiscible liquids, that is, they are mixed in any proportion. It has a stopcock at its lower end and its shape is a little different from regular funnels, being similar to a pear.

  • Embudo Hirsch

Quite similar to the Büchner funnel, with holes for filtration; with the difference that the cylindrical part is wider and shorter, while it is used for volumes less than 10 ml.

  • Powder funnel

Made of plastic, its cylindrical end is short and extremely wide to ensure the passage of solid material in a fluid way, something that would not be possible with traditional funnels due to its narrowness.

As you can see, the different types of funnel are such due to the nature of the substance or sample that they must pass through. Solids need wider funnels, substances with danger to react a slow and measured transfer. In addition, the inclusion of the filtration process has made the instrument even more useful.

Funnel Features

Funnels are practical instruments, quite intuitive and easy to recognize; they can be made of plastic, glass, porcelain, or steel.

The funnel is a single solid body integral instrument . Sometimes with stopcocks or plates for filtration, but it does not change its hollow and conical structure of two ends, in which one is wider than the other, which in turn is longer.

Importance of the Funnel

The funnel is an instrument of great importance for the safety and treatment of substances . Transferring an element from one container to another is a common practice, therefore having an instrument that ensures said transfer in a clean and adequate way, depending on the substance, is essential to carry out laboratory work.

There are many types of funnels, but all of them made with the purpose of facilitating the transfer from one container to another. Identify the one that is present in your laboratory, know it and use it in the most appropriate way, so you will maintain security when developing your work.

Dr. Loony Davis5
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Born and raised in Brussels in an English family, I have always lived in a multicultural environment. After several work experiences in marketing and communication, I came to Smart Water Magazine, which I describe as the most exciting challenge of my career.
I am a person with great restlessness and curiosity to learn, discover what I do not know, as well as reinvent myself daily, someone who is curious about life and wants to know. I enjoy sharing knowledge.
This is my personal project but I also collaborate in other blogs, it is the case, the most important web on water currently exists in the US, if you are interested you can read my articles here.

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