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What is a Ferrule? | Greyhound Chromatography

What is a Ferrule?

Available in materials such as brass, steel, graphite and a variety of different plastics, ferrules connect two components together. The term is primarily tied to scientific experiments and practices, but different versions are also used for holding bristles to brushes, handles to golf clubs, strings to wooden instruments, grips to snooker and pool cues, wooden handles to blades for woodwork tools and rubbers to the ends of pencils. Even the plastic tip at the end of shoelaces is classed as a type of ferrule.

Looking at the more outlandish ways that ferrules have been utilised, electricians and dentists have used them for equipment that require strength, durability and a watertight seal. From a scientific standpoint, ferrules are most commonly used to attach pipes to test tubes, flasks, cylinders and beakers, with gas chromatography ferrules being the most common reason for their use. While they’re only a small component in any scientific process, they are just as important as any other part of your lab equipment, and if you use an unsuitable alternative or choose the wrong ferrule, the results of the scientific process you’re conducting could be made invalid.

What does a ferrule do?

Sometimes simply referred to as rubber stoppers, ferrules are used in laboratories for safely joining two components together, allowing liquids or gasses to pass through tubing without any of the substance escaping. The purpose of a ferrule is to be both airtight and watertight to protect the substance and - if it’s a potentially harmful substance - the people handling it.

You’ll likely recognise rubber ferrules from high school science experiments, where they would have been used to seamlessly support travelling gasses and liquids whilst preventing any spillages for processes including gas chromatography. Not only would this combat mess around the area of your experiment but it would also stop any dangerous substances from coming into contact with the people involved in the experiment.

It would always be advised to use a ferrule for any scientific process that requires a substance to pass between two components, as even a substance that isn’t harmful will need to be secured within the tube or it will be likely to seep out. Ferrules are made from different materials such as metal, rubber and plastic to suit different uses, with the chosen material being based on the specific use. All three of these materials could be used for scientific processes like gas chromatography.

Rubber ferrules and piping in a science laboratory stockroom.

 

What size ferrule do I need?

Identifying the correct size of ferrule you need should be based around the equipment you’re using and the process you’re using it for. Rubber ferrules should usually fit quite tight in the tube you’re connecting them to in order to reliably prevent any substances from escaping and any outside interferences from affecting your results.

All scientific processes must be precise in order for them to return the best results, ruling out any chance of bias or unfairness towards a specific outcome. Even minor components in science equipment like ferrules need to be exact for an impartial result, so there’s an extensive range of different sizes to account for every shape and size of test tube, flask, cylinder and beaker.

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