Did you know that Robert Bunsen was born in 1811? He was a German chemist who studied the unique light signature (emission spectra) of elements and discovered the elements cesium and rubidium. He also developed the Bunsen burner. For his research, he needed a heat source that would burn consistently, but not produce very much light. The device designed by Robert Bunsen allowed scientists to control the temperature of the flame and could produce a very hot, and almost invisible flame. His design, known as a Bunsen burner, is now used in laboratories all over the world.
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Robert Bunsen’s birthday has also been reported as March 31st, but his biographer and the parish register list March 30th as Bunsen’s birthday.
Robert Bunsen also studied organoarsenic chemistry and found that iron oxide hydrate could be used as a precipitating agent, as well as an antidote for arsenic poisoning; iron oxide hydrate is still the most effective arsenic poisoning antidote today.
During his research and studies, Bunsen also died from arsenic poisoning and lost sight in his right eye after an explosion involving cacodyl.
Robert Bunsen was greatly admired by the other scientists of his lifetime. He was a skilled and devoted teacher and always acted with courtesy. As a matter of principle, he never took out a patent on his discoveries or inventions such as the Bunsen burner.
John Tyndall, Viktor Meyer, Carl Fredrich Wilhelm Ludwig, Phillip Lenard, and Dmitri Mendeleev were students of Robert Bunsen.
The flame of a Bunsen burner can be adjusted to produce flames with different temperatures by changing the ratio of fuel gas and air mix in the Bunsen burner. A low temperature flame has almost no air mixed in the burner, and only uses the ambient air available at the tip of the burner. It is bright yellow and produces soot. The hottest flame has a more equal mix of air and fuel gas. It burns cleanly with a blue flame that is almost invisible.
When heated or burned at a high temperature, the radiative energy emitted by different elements is unique. This signature is the emission spectra for that element and helps to identify the chemical composition or substances with physical samples, as well far away objects such as stars and distant planets.