Laboratory thermometer

laboratory thermometer


  • The thermometer is made relatively small so that it is portable and cheap.
  • The liquid is contained in a thin-walled glass bulb. The bulb is made relatively larger than its bore to contain more of the liquid, so as to improve sensitivity.
  • The narrow bore of the capillary tube is uniform. The round glass stem around the capillary tube is made thick. It acts as a magnifying glass.


  • Small expansion of the liquid in the liquid bulb will cause a big change in the length of the liquid thread in the capillary tube as it is made narrow. The narrower the bore, the higher the sensitivity.


  • The range is limited by the freezing and boiling points of liquid.
    For mercury thermometer: -39 to 357°C
    For alcohol-in-glass thermometer: -115 to 78°C
  • In colder countries, most of its liquid-in-glass thermometers use alcohol and not mercury.
  • The range can be increased by lengthening the bore.
  • Range is the converse of sensitivity, i.e., the longer the range, the lower is its sensitivity. Factors that increase range would at the same time reduce its sensitivity.


  • Mercury expands quite uniformly over a good range of temperatures.
  • Alcohol expands non-linearly over different range of temperatures.


  • As the liquid is contained in a thin-walled, small glass bulb, it will be more responsive (faster response) to heat.
  • Mercury reacts quickly to the temperature changes whereas alcohol reacts slowly.
  • It takes several tens of seconds to record one reading.

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