Laboratory Mortar

November 1, 2021

The laboratory mortar is an instrument used to grind solid elements . The mortars even date back to 1500 BC, finding Egyptian papyri that speak of the use of this instrument. The mortar is mainly used in the kitchen and pharmaceutical areas, and although they do not have so many differences between them, they have characteristic points that distinguish them.

It is very likely that at some point in your life you have used a mortar in the kitchen area, if so, it will be easy for you to recognize a laboratory one; Because mortar, despite its age, is one of the instruments that has suffered the least variations over time. This thanks to the fact that its simple design is ideal to fulfill its function.

What is the Laboratory Mortar?

The laboratory mortar is an instrument that is part of the laboratory equipment. This is made up of two parts , a concave solid body, similar to a container, although with oval curvatures to facilitate the sliding of the grind. The other part is a small-sized club and the same material as the container, with which the crushing is carried out.

Laboratory mortars can come in different materials, these being quartz, ceramic, glass and metal . Although mortars used for other areas, such as culinary, can be made of plastic or wood, laboratory mortars must meet specific characteristics and therefore the use of these materials is used.

The most common to find are those made of ceramic materials, that is, non-metallic inorganic materials, mainly porcelain; being the glass ones also easy to find. The best known metal mortar is the mortar which is a type of kitchen mortar; however, laboratory mortars are also found in this material although it is less common.

What is the Laboratory Mortar for?

The laboratory mortar is used to crush solid samples; the act of grinding is to crumble or grind an element necessarily in a solid state , thus breaking it down into smaller parts. Depending on the type of sample, this is a process that will require more or less force and is a procedure widely used in organic elements, although in reality this is indifferent.

Mortar is also used to mix elements and make preparations since its surface and structure is ideal for it. Formerly it was used to mix ingredients such as herbs to create with these pastes to be used as medicines.

Despite the fact that mortars are designed to crush solid elements and their materials are resistant; laboratory mortars are not used to grind elements with too high a level of hardness. It is not the ideal instrument in these cases, firstly because the applied force is manual and depends on the performer and secondly because of the damage that the instrument may suffer.

Uses of Laboratory Mortar

The crushing of solid elements is necessary in the laboratory in different procedures. Normally when the crushed remains of the solid element are to be added in a solution to generate a reaction. The element can be brought to a fully pulverized state or just reduced to small parts.

The use of the mortar is quite intuitive and no training or instruction is required to use it. All you have to do is place the sample in the mortar container and begin to grind it with the stick, which, due to the container’s shape, makes it more convenient to do it in a circular direction, but there is no predetermined way of doing it.

Currently, laboratory mortars have decreased their use, being replaced by electronic instruments capable of performing their function with greater capacity and precision. But this does not mean that it is an obsolete instrument, on the contrary it is found in laboratories regularly.

It is important that you know that the one that is still used despite having more sophisticated instruments that perform their function; This is because its ease of use is an advantage when it comes to dealing with small samples. Being fast, simple and practical to use.

Types of Laboratory Mortars

Being such an old instrument and that it has been used by so many different cultures, there are several types of mortars made of different materials and even with variations of designs for specific purposes. However normally these were directed more towards the culinary area. In the case of laboratory mortars, their design is a single standard.

If the types of laboratory mortars can be classified , it would be by size and the material with which they are made. Regarding the size there are several dimensions, finding from 80ml to 500ml; always being small enough to be able to be manipulated manually without difficulty, not being suitable for the crushing of large samples.

As for the difference by material, this changes some characteristics; For example, glass mortar is waterproof, while porcelain mortar , although not as porous, is not waterproof. While porcelain has better thermal resistance than glass, although this will also depend on the type of glass.

When choosing a laboratory mortar, the first thing you should verify is that the material from which it is built meets the requirements to be suitable for working with laboratory samples. Then the size, so that you can work comfortably regarding the type of sample you are going to use.

Laboratory Mortar Features

Earlier I mentioned that when acquiring a mortar you must make sure that it meets certain qualities that make it suitable for working with the elements used in laboratories, but what are these qualities? These are properties that allow it to be safe to work with such samples without altering their composition.

  • Thermal resistance

Despite the fact that mortar is not an instrument that is exposed to high temperatures, as part of the laboratory material where all types of samples are worked; good thermal resistance is a favorable quality.

  • Chemical resistance

Again, chemical resistance may be less necessary in mortar than, say, a flask, but it is still a required quality so as not to risk damage from corrosion or erosion.

  • Impermeability

Many mortars are made of materials with a certain degree of porosity. These, if they are going to be used in the kitchen, it does not present inconvenience, but in the laboratory it is another story. The porosity allows the impregnation of the sample in the mortar which can contaminate later samples.

The laboratory mortars that best meet these characteristics are metal and glass mortars The latter being the preferred ones for the area; especially in the pharmaceutical branch, where mortar is used in the preparation of medicines and it is necessary for the instrument to be free of any previous residue or there would be the risk of altering the compounds.

Importance of the Laboratory Mortar

Mortar as a tool has a marked historical importance, having occurred long ago and in different cultures. Which speaks of the level of necessity of the instrument. The crushing of solid elements is used in many processes, especially the creation of new compounds from them.

The mortar as a laboratory instrument was first found among doctors and apothecaries and its use in these disciplines continues to this day. Although it has also spread to areas such as chemistry and biology, due to the type of elements with which they work.

Its use has decreased and is maintained for the same reason, the simplicity of its design; that helps to be able to be used quickly and efficiently to work the sample without complications. It is really a personal preference to continue using in the laboratory, but for practicality and its low cost it is still a valid and accessible option.

Like mortar, there are many instruments that have been in use for a long time, while other more sophisticated ones are recent, and others meet both characteristics as they have been modified over time.

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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