Laboratory Refractometer

November 1, 2021

If on some occasions you have wanted to know about laboratory instruments and what their functions are, today you will be able to satisfy your knowledge with one of the tools that performs a very important task in laboratories and from now on you will be able to identify it as a refractometer.

This valuable instrument was invented by a German scientist named Ernst Abbe, in the early twentieth century, its operation is quite simple, but with the passing of time and advances in technology this great invention has been able to evolve.

It is important that you know that the name of this comes from refractometry, which is a method used to measure the propagation of light in a medium, related to the density of said medium. Knowing that the refraction of light is a fundamental property of physics, it is used in the principle of refractometry and based on this this material has been developed in order to achieve the necessary measurement.

In your performance in the laboratory area you will need to be trained and familiar with this study or work tool to use it correctly.

What is a Laboratory Refractometer?

It is an optical tool that is used to measure the percentage of soluble solids in a liquid solution , this instrument must use the physical principle of total refraction of light, which originates from the concentration and type of substance dissolved in a liquid solution. The laboratory refractometer is responsible for measuring the density of liquids, knowing that the denser the liquid, its refraction will be greater.

We can also say that this sophisticated apparatus is used to measure the refractive index of translucent solids and liquids . This laboratory element uses the principle that ensures that when the density of a substance is increased its refractive index is increased proportionally, for example when sugar is dissolved in water.

This instrument not only measures liquids, but can measure gases and solids, this invention helps you measure the concentration index of a substance in a matter, this allows you to analyze the percentages of some substances that make up a matter. It also allows to identify the types of substances and the degree of purity that they possess.

What is a Laboratory Refractometer for?

This instrument is not only used in the area of ​​chemistry, to control the manufacture of products such as air fresheners, antifreezes, perfumes, emulsions, detergents, glues, among others. But this element has also been a protagonist in food industries.

For example, when measuring sugar in food, in the control of production operations in industries of liquid products such as juices, dairy products, sugar refining, soft drinks, energy drinks, sauces, the use of different types of refractometers is vital. importance.

It is important to note that the fundamental function of the laboratory refractometer is to measure the refractive index of a medium.

How does a Laboratory Refractometer work?

For the operation of this instrument we must take into account that it is extremely careful to prevent it from falling and suffering blows, it is a fragile material, it is not resistant to extreme heat, or sudden changes in humidity, that is why it is important that while not If you use it, take the precaution of keeping it in its stored case so its useful life will be longer.

The refractometer has a plastic cover that covers the lens, you must retract this cover that is translucent and is located on the back of this device. The lens should be carefully cleaned with specialized paper for this type of material to avoid stains or residues in this procedure.

You must take a measure of water, with the use of a dropper and place one or two drops on the lens, being careful not to touch the surface of the instrument with the dropper. Put the plastic cover back in position, not allowing bubbles to form or the space between the cover and the lens to fill with air.

After this you must place yourself in an illuminated place or in front of the sun (in laboratories it can be observed through the refractometer eyepiece) because the lighting is necessary to distinguish the numerical scale on the lens, when you are observing you will be able to notice that the vision is divided into two sections, one opaque and one translucent; where the line that separates these two sections will be the salinity marker on the scale, at the point of intersection is where the salinity level of the sample is determined.

After calculating the salinity you must lift the plastic cover and wash the sample of the solution that was on the lens and on the inside of the cover. It should be washed with distilled water and then dried with specialized paper for the lens. Then place the plastic cover in its initial position. After using the refractometer it is important that you make sure to clean it and store it in a safe place, preferably inside its case.

Uses of a Laboratory Refractometer

Laboratory refractometers are used in areas such as chemistry to make important measurements in the manufacture of chemical products, such as detergents, perfumes, antifreezes; among others. It is also used in the area of ​​the food industry to measure the sugar levels of food, and in the area of ​​liquid foods this instrument is widely used to measure these levels in juices, soft drinks, sauces or others.

Among its uses, the refractometer meets the following parameters:

  • Identify what type of substance it is.
  • Determine its degree of purity.
  • Determine the percentage of solute dissolved in a solution.
  • And throw various qualitative analyzes.

Types of Laboratory Refractometers

At present you will find two types of refractometers on the market, this depends on the system you use for detecting the refractive index by transparent systems that are found in refractometers such as Abbe’s or portable refractometers.

In the digital refractometer that works with the principle of light reflection, some more sophisticated and complex mechanisms are added and depending on the area where it is used, you will be able to find different models.

  • Abbe Refractometer

This allows to measure the density, the concentration of salts, sugars, acids, that is to say of soluble solids in a medium. This refractometer works through the principle of reflection of light.

The disadvantage of this instrument is that it only measures solutions with refractive indices lower than that indicated by the glass, but this tends to be corrected by placing a thermostat inside the optical system, the scales for different substances that a refractometer of this type can have are; degrees Brix, Mash Sacch or Baume.

  • Digital Refractometer

This type of refractometer has made these useful instruments evolve with technology. Since it is easier to analyze substances such as lactose, glucose, among others. Its results are accurate, fast and safe.

It tends to have more advantages than Abbe’s, professionals prefer it because there is no need for manual annotations, because they have built-in displays that show the temperatures and results of each sample measurement.

Due to added systems such as wifi you can print, send and collect your data on the PC of the laboratories. Digital refractometers have been specialized to measure difficult-to-read samples such as fruit pulp or industrial resins.

Using the same refractometer you can measure several samples, since they have programming software so that the user has a wide range of scales.

Characteristics of a Laboratory Refractometer

This tool has a main prism, which is where the samples are placed, to perform measurements of different solutions. This prism has a sheet that covers the substances that are studied in it.

The adjustment screw is another of the characteristics that a refractometer must have, this is the one that allows to adjust its calibration. It also has a mirror tube that is responsible for reflecting the light upwards.

It has the eyepiece, the lens that is responsible for focusing where the refractometer scale is observed. Last but one of the most important is the scale, which is the one that indicates the measurement, it is located inside.

Importance of a Laboratory Refractometer

After this wonderful invention was discovered, industries over the years as well as large and small laboratories have seen the importance of a measuring instrument that has been fundamental for the manufacture of products for human consumption as well as for scientific and technological advances.

The refractometer has marked a powerful step in the evolution and improvement of cosmetics, beverages, food, among others; There is no doubt that it was a creation of the utmost importance for the advancement of our creation.

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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