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A burner is a device used to generate a flame by using a gaseous fuel, to heat up flasks, melt or vaporize materials, or apply some other form of heat treatment to various items.


Burners consist of a metal or ceramic body where the fuel is supplied, either directly from a reservoir/tank or through some tubing in the metal device through one end and comes out through the nozzle, where it burns, releasing a flame. Some burners have an air inlet to mix the fuel gas with air, to enable complete combustion. The fuel used in burners can be gas (acetylene, natural gas, propane, etc.), liquid (alcohol, naphta, etc.) or solid (hexamine).


Alcohol burner

Consist of a glass or metal bottle, containing the liquid fuel, a lid with a cotton wick which is immersed in the fuel and a separate cap, used to put out the flame, similar in operation to that of a Zippo lighter. The wick draws the fuel up where it's ignited, causing it to burn. The flame consumes the fuel, and due to capilarity more fuel is drawn, continuously feeding the flame. The most common fuel used are alcohol (ethanol, isopropanol, ethanol), hence the name, while other flammable liquids like acetone or naphta are rarely used. Alcohol burners don't generate very hot flame, and aren't used for heating large amounts of liquid.

Bunsen burner

In a Bunsen burner, the gas (fuel) goes up through the base through a small hole at the bottom of the barrel and is directed upward. There are open slots in the side of the tube bottom to allow air into the stream via the Venturi effect, and the gas burns at the top of the tube once ignited by an external flame source.

Meker-Fisher burner

More commonly knows as Meker burner, it can produce a hotter flame than other burners. It can also produce a larger-diameter flame. Unlike the Bunsen or Teclu burners, the flame produced by Meker burner burns without noise.

Teclu burner

The main aspect of this type of burner is that its lower part posses a conical tube, with a round screw nut below its base. The Teclu burner provides better mixing of air and fuel which is what allows it to achieve higher flame temperatures than the Bunsen burner.

Tirrill burner

The base of the burner has a needle valve which allows the regulation of gas intake directly from the burner, rather than from the gas source. Can achieve temperatures as high as 1560 °C.

Other burners

Blow torch

Available in dozens of models, they use propane, or propane-butane as fuel to achieve very hot flames.

Camping stove

Useful for a quick and convenient boiling of non-flammable liquids.

Fuel tablet burner

Uses hexamine or petroleum wax as fuel. Unlike other solid fuels, hexamine fuel tablets produce little smoke or odor.

Oxy-fuel torch

More commonly used for welding/cutting metal, they use acetylene or hydrogen as fuel. Unlike blow torches, oxy-fuel ones don't use atmospheric oxygen, but rather oxygen from a compressed gas tank. Can reach very high temperatures, of around 3,500 °C for oxy-acetylene and 2,253 °C for oxy-hydrogen. Using an oxy-fuel torch to heat glassware or other lab equipment is a stupid idea, as the hot flame may damage such equipment and valuable fuel is wasted. They are however useful when doing glassworking.


Alcohol, Bunsen, Teclu, Meker and Tirrill burners are sold by most chemical suppliers. Sometimes such items can be found in some hardware stores.

Other types of burners can be bought from most hardware and camping stores.

DIY burners

Usually there's no need to make your own burner, as they tend to be quite cheap and it's better to simply buy them.

However, if your burner doesn't generate a temperature high enough for your needs, you can modify an already existing burner to give a hotter flame, by increasing the air flow to the flame. Here's a good video on how to do it.


  • Heat beakers and flasks
  • Glassworking

Handling and safety

Operating a hot flame presents fire risks and fire hazard precautions should be in place.


See also


Relevant Sciencemadness threads