How does a pipette work? One of the smallest pieces of laboratory equipment, broken down.

The pipette is the small instrument that makes a lot of science possible. This is how a pipette works.

A pipette is one of the smallest and most essential pieces of equipment you find in a laboratory. Though it’s small, a pipette makes all the difference in the success, accuracy, and consistency of all other laboratory procedures that involve the movement of liquid from one location to another.

Varying in its application and pipetting technique, the traditional pipette has become a lot of different, specialized things, like a:

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  • Serological pipette

  • Electronic pipette

  • Pasteur pipette

  • Volumetric pipette

  • Mohr pipette

  • Graduated pipette

  • Beral pipette

  • Multichannel pipette

  • Bulb pipette


In the 18th century, French chemist Francois Descroizilles invented the alkalimeter. Shortly after, scientist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac made some modifications to the alkalimeter and called it a “pipette.”

In settings like a crime lab, where the stakes are higher, the measured volume and accurate aspiration and dispensing of liquid could make all the difference between an innocent or guilty verdict. 

Though they look relatively small and straightforward, pipettes are made up of quite a few parts that allow them to complete vital details of laboratory procedures:

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  • A body to house liquid solutions

  • A spring that controls the force of the plunger

  • A volume indicator (indicates the minimum to maximum volume a pipette can handle)

  • A shaft to insert a disposable pipette tip 

  • A plunger (the part that forces the liquid out)

  • A tip ejector with a tip ejector button to eject the disposable tip following a procedure

  • A thumbwheel (also known as a fine volume adjustment ring to control the volume of a solution)

  • A push-button with two depressions (two levels you can push the button down to in order to work out air bubbles, aspirate solution, dispose of remaining liquid, or for other manual pipetting processes)

  • A volume display beside the pipette barrel

Modern models of pipettes, like our SuperPette, also have depression locks on the plunger button to prevent human error in pipetting technique between aspirating and dispensing liquid.

All of these parts work together to allow users to safely and accurately transfer liquids to other receptacles for centrifuging, culturing, heating or cooling.

Check out the SuperPette and other manual and electronic pipettors and pipettes here today

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