Dispensing errors can arise from the use of inappropriate or inaccurate equipment. Measuring cylinders are suitable for making up reagents, but are not accurate enough for the dilution of sample solutions. For the latter, a pipette and graduated (volumetric) flask are used. The accuracy of these may be checked by weighing the dispensed or contained amount of water. Flasks are calibrated on manufacture at 20°C. If a 1-l borosilicate glass measuring flask is used at 15°C, the contraction of the glass wall increases the volume by 0.05 ml, thus a correction of -0.05 ml is required. The water has itself contracted by 0.84 ml, so an additional correction of +0.84 ml should be added, making the total correction +0.79 ml, or +0.079%. Although this is an acceptable error, when combined with other sources of error, the maximum possible error can be surprisingly high. Thus each source of error should be minimized as far as is practicable. Volumetric glassware is available in Class A and Class B qualities. A Class A 10-ml bulb (one-mark) pipette has a tolerance of ±0.020 ml, and a Class B ±0.040 ml. Class B is adequate for routine agricultural chemical analysis.
Bulb, or transfer pipettes, are usually made to deliver a stated volume of liquid under standard conditions of temperature and with a draining time of 15 s while the tip is in contact with the wall of the receiving vessel. Previously, the tip should be touched against the wall of the container from which the liquid has been aspirated in order to allow any adhering droplet to drain away. A pipette filler should be used to avoid the danger of liquid entering the mouth when the unsafe mouth suction technique is used. Graduated pipettes with straight sides may deliver a volume from zero at the top to any graduation line, or from a graduation line to zero at the jet tip. Some are blow-out pipettes which require the last drop to be blown out from the tip, and these are indicated by a white or etched ring near the top of the pipette. Normal bulb pipettes should never be blown out to try and save time. Bulb pipettes are graduated to BS1583 and graduated pipettes to BS700 and ISO835, and most are colour coded. The latter are divided into types as given in Table 3.1.
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