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What Are Analytical Balances, And Why do You Need One In Your Lab?

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Analytical balances are more sensitive than standard scales found in any supermarket or department store. They can measure quantities as small as 50 nanograms; that’s one-millionth of a gram! Last but not least, they also come with software that automatically calculates weights and provides an error margin.

Analytical balances are commonly used by chemists, pharmacists, biologists, and other scientists for weighing tiny amounts of solid, liquid, or even semi-liquid samples. Commonly they are used to weigh drugs and ingredients for our recipes as well as to measure the amount of an unknown substance in a sample. According to different laboratories’ different needs and requirements, different types of analytical balances are available in the market.

Basic Structure of An Analytical Balance

At first glance, analytical balances look just like any standard scale used to measure a shopping cartload of groceries. But upon closer inspection, one notices that an analytical balance is much more complex than the ones we are familiar with. Besides weighing the object being weighed, it also measures temperature and force (called capacity). Here is how an analytical balance works:

The sample to be weighed is placed on the pan of the balance. The sample can be as large as a tablet computer or as small as a trace amount of radioactive isotopes or hundreds of tiny DNA fragments. It has to be placed on a delicate weighing platform called a pan to measure its weight. The pan has a spring inside that causes the sample to be moved downwards on its impact. The spring is also weighted to keep it at the same weight throughout.

In most analytical balances, two separate pans are used to weigh an object and measure its temperature and force (capacity). The sample is initially weighed in both pans by setting their respective read-out levels at zero. In this state, we can measure the object’s weight, i.e., the total mass of the sample, and we can also set the equilibrium between the two pans by adjusting those balance weights.

What Makes Them Unique?

Analytical balances have a computer and an electronic circuit board that is capable of making sure that all components are working properly, measuring the object’s weight, and giving us accurate readings. Analytical Balances are usually more costly than normal balances, yet they offer certain advantages over them. Here are some reasons why analytical balances are better than normal ones:

  • The most obvious difference between analytical and standard (commercial) scales is their accuracy. Analytical scales give more accurate readings. Their resolution of 0.0001 grams (or one part in 10000) allows for much finer measurements than those obtained by commercial scales with a resolution of 0.1 grams (or one part in 100).
  • Analytical balances are equipped with many more features than commercial scales. The extra sensors and safety systems make them bulkier and harder to use, offering advanced functionality such as temperature control and force control.
  • These balances are designed to handle even the most delicate of balances; in the order of nanograms. This means you will get better accuracy while working on any chain or simple reaction.

An analytical balance offers you the chance to perform quick measurements. For example, some users have reported an accuracy of 0.001 grams using analytical scales when weighing an object on a normal balance (about 10 seconds). These scales can weigh and record data much faster because of their electronic and digital nature.

Application of Analytical Balances

The applications of analytical balances are as diverse as the number of uses. Whether it be a large-scale manufacturing industry or any compact laboratory, analytical balances are used everywhere to improve accuracy. Take a look at some common applications of analytical balances across different industries:

  • Commonly, analytical balances are used in laboratories to measure weight, temperature, and force (capacity) simultaneously. 
  • They measure any quantity that needs precise measurements, such as the weight of substances or particle sizes or even how much a material absorbs energy or emits sounds.
  • Analytical balances are very useful in chemical and biological labs and industries. This is their ability to give better accuracy in measurement and get the best results from any experiment.
  • Analytical balances can also be integrated into many devices, such as ovens, scales, and other household appliances.

Analytical balances can be used to measure small amounts of both solid and liquid samples. They are also useful in many other fields such as engineering, science, and medicine. Though they are more expensive than ordinary scales, they offer more precise readings.

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