Test tube

Test tube
Test tube

Two small test tubes held in spring clamps
Other names Culture tube
Uses Chemical reaction
Related items Vacutainer
Boiling tube
Centrifuge tube

A test tube, also known as a culture tube or sample tube, is a common piece of laboratory glassware consisting of a finger-like length of glass or clear plastic tubing, open at the top, usually with a rounded U-shaped bottom.

A large test tube designed specifically for boiling liquids is called a boiling tube.

Test tubes are available in a multitude of lengths and widths, typically from 10 to 20 mm wide and 50 to 200 mm long.[1] The top often features a flared lip to aid pouring out the contents; some sources consider that the presence of a lip is what distinguishes a test tube from a culture tube.[2] Some test tubes have a flat bottom; some are made so as to accept a ground glass stopper or a screw cap. They are often provided with a small ground glass or white glaze area near the top for labeling with a pencil.



Louis Lumière with a microscope and some test tubes.

Test tubes are widely used by chemists to hold, mix, or heat small quantities of solid or liquid chemicals, especially for qualitative experiments and assays. Their round bottom and straight sides minimize mass loss when pouring, make them easier to clean, and allow convenient monitoring of the contents. The long, narrow neck slows down the spreading of vapors and gases to the environment.

A test tube filled with water and upturned into a water-filled beaker is often used to capture gases, e.g. in electrolysis demonstrations.

Culture tubes are often used in biology for handling and culturing all kinds of live organisms, such as molds, bacteria, seedlings, plant cuttings, etc.; and in medicine and forensics to store samples of blood or other fluids.

A test tube with a stopper is often used for temporary storage of chemical or biological samples.

Test tubes are usually held in special-purpose racks, clamps, or tongs. Some racks for culture tubes are designed to hold the tubes in a nearly horizontal position, so as to maximize the surface of the culture medium inside.

Test tubes are sometimes put to casual uses outside of lab environments, e.g. as flower vases or containers for spices.


Eight cavity test tube mold courtesy of Lake Charles Manufacturing.

Test tubes for physics and chemistry are usually made of glass for better resistance to heat and corrosive chemicals and longer life. Tubes made from expansion-resistant glasses, such as borosilicate glass, can be placed directly over a Bunsen burner flame.

Culture tubes for biology are usually made of clear plastic (such as polystyrene or polypropylene) by injection molding [3] and are often discarded after use.

Test tubes may come with prepared contents. For example, a blue top tube is a test tube of 5 ml containing sodium citrate as an anticoagulant, used to collect specimens for coagulation screens and testing for glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase.[4]

See also


  1. ^ MiniScience.com catalog: Test Tube, accessed March 27, 2009]
  2. ^ Thomas Scott (transl., 1996), Concise Encyclopedia: Biology. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3110106612, 9783110106619. 1287 pages.
  3. ^ M. Jeremy Ashcraft, General Manager, Lake Charles Manufacturing (2007). Test Tube Molding Process: A discussion on the molding of plastic test tubes. Lake Charles Manufacturing. 
  4. ^ TheFreeDictionary > blue top tube Citing: McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Test tube — Test Test, n. [OE. test test, or cupel, potsherd, F. t[^e]t, from L. testum an earthen vessel; akin to testa a piece of burned clay, an earthen pot, a potsherd, perhaps for tersta, and akin to torrere to patch, terra earth (cf. {Thirst}, and… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • test-tube — [test′to͞ob΄, test′tyo͞ob΄] adj. 1. made in or as in a test tube; experimental 2. produced by artificial insemination [a test tube baby] …   English World dictionary

  • test tube — test tubes also test tube N COUNT A test tube is a small tube shaped container made from glass. Test tubes are used in laboratories …   English dictionary

  • test-tube — adj 1) in vitro <test tube experiments> 2) produced by in vitro fertilization <test tube babies> …   Medical dictionary

  • test-tube — test′ tube adj. produced in or as if in a test tube; synthetic or experimental • Etymology: 1885–90 …   From formal English to slang

  • test tube — n a plain or lipped tube usu. of thin glass closed at one end and used esp. in chemistry and biology * * * a tube of thin glass closed at one end, used for various procedures in chemistry and for the growth of bacterial or viral cultures …   Medical dictionary

  • test tube — n a small glass container that is shaped like a tube and is used in chemistry →↑laboratory …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • test tube — ► NOUN ▪ a thin glass tube closed at one end, used to hold material for laboratory testing or experiments …   English terms dictionary

  • test tube — n. a tube of thin, transparent glass closed at one end, used in chemical experiments, etc …   English World dictionary

  • test-tube — /test toohb , tyoohb /, adj. produced in or as if in a test tube; synthetic or experimental. [1885 90] * * * …   Universalium

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