A System of Instruction in the Practical Use of the Blowpipe
Author: Anonymous
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ENTERED according to Act of Congress, in the year 1858, by C.E. BAILLIERE, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, for the Southern District of New York.

W.H. TINSON, Printer and Stereotyper, 43 Centre Street.

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Preface, 7 The Use of the Blowpipe, 9 Utensils—The Blowpipe, 12 The Oil Lamp, 22 The Spirit Lamp, 23 Charcoal Support, 24 Platinum Supports, 26 Iron Spoons, 28 Glass Tubes, 28 Other Apparatus necessary, 31 THE REAGENTS, 34 Reagents of General Use, 34 Carbonate of Soda, 34 Hydrate of Baryta, 35 Bi-sulphate of Potassa, 35 Oxalate of Potassa, 36 Cyanide of Potassium, 36 Nitrate of Potassa, 37 Borax, 38 Microcosmic Salt, 39 Nitrate of Cobalt, 40 Tin, 41 Silica, 42 Test Papers, 42 ESPECIAL REAGENTS, 43 Boracic Acid, 43 Fluorspar, 43 Oxalate of Nickel, 43 Oxide of Copper, 43 Antimoniate of Potassa, 44 Silver Foil, 44 Nitroprusside of Sodium, 44


Initiatory Analysis, 47 Examination with the Glass Bulb, 47 " in the Open Tube, 52 " upon Charcoal, 55 " in the Platinum Forceps, 61 " in the Borax Bead, 69 " in Microcosmic Salt, 72 Table I.—Colors of Beads of Borax and Microcosmic Salt, 75 Table II.—Behavior of Metallic Oxydes with Borax and Microcosmic Salt, 85 Examinations with Carbonate of Soda, 103


Special Reactions, 109 A.—METALLIC OXIDES: First Group.—The Alkalies: Potassa, Soda, Ammonia, and Lithia, 110 Second Group.—The Alkaline Earths: Baryta, Strontia, Lime, and Magnesia, 115 Third Group.—The Earths: Alumina, Glucina, Yttria, Thorina, and Zirconia, 121 Fourth Group.—Cerium, Lanthanium, Didymium, Columbium, Niobium, Pelopium, Titanium, Uranium, Vanadium, Chromium, Manganese, 124 Fifth Group.—Iron, Cobalt, Nickel, 135 Sixth Group.—Zinc, Cadmium, Antimony, Tellurium, 140 Seventh Group.—Lead, Bismuth, Tin, 149 Eighth Group.—Mercury, Arsenic, 157 Ninth Group.—Copper, Silver, Gold, 161 Tenth Group.—Molybdenum, Osmium, 165 Eleventh Group.—Platinum, Palladium, Iridium, Rhodium, Ruthenium, 167

Non-Metallic Substances, 168

Tabular Statement of the Reactions of Minerals before the Blowpipe, 178 Carbon and Organic Minerals, 181 Potassa, 184 Soda, 186 Baryta and Strontia, 190 Lime, 192 Magnesia, 196 Alumina, 200 Silicates, 204 Uranium, 212 Iron, 214 Manganese, 222 Nickel and Cobalt, 226 Zinc, 232 Bismuth, 234 Lead, 238 Copper, 248 Antimony, 256 Arsenic, 260 Mercury, 262 Silver, 264

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It is believed the arrangement of the present work is superior to that of many of its predecessors, as a vehicle for the facilitation of the student's progress. While it does not pretend to any other rank than as an introduction to the larger works, it is hoped that the arrangement of its matter is such that the beginner may more readily comprehend the entire subject of Blowpipe Analysis than if he were to begin his studies by the perusal of the more copious works of Berzelius and Plattner.

When the student shall have gone through these pages, and repeated the various reactions described, then he will be fully prepared to enter upon the study of the larger works. To progress through them will then be but a comparatively easy task.

The arrangement of this little work has been such as the author and his friends have considered the best that could be devised for the purpose of facilitating the progress of the student. Whether we have succeeded is left for the public to decide. The author is indebted to several of his friends for valuable contributions and suggestions.


CINCINNATI, June, 1857.

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Part First.


Perhaps during the last fifty years, no department of chemistry has been so enriched as that relating to analysis by means of the Blowpipe.

Through the unwearied exertions of men of science, the use of this instrument has arrived to such a degree of perfection, that we have a right to term its use, "Analysis in the dry way," in contradistinction to analysis "in the wet way." The manipulations are so simple and expeditious, and the results so clear and characteristic, that the Blowpipe analysis not only verifies and completes the results of analysis in the wet way, but it gives in many cases direct evidences of the presence or absence of many substances, which would not be otherwise detected, but through a troublesome and tedious process, involving both prolixity and time; for instance, the detection of manganese in minerals.

Many substances have to go through Blowpipe manipulations before they can be submitted to an analysis in the wet way. The apparatus and reagents employed are compendious and small in number, so that they can be carried easily while on scientific excursions, a considerable advantage for mineralogists and metallurgists.

The principal operations with the Blowpipe may be explained briefly as follows:

(a.) By Ignition is meant the exposure of a substance to such a degree of heat, that it glows or emits light, or becomes red-hot. Its greatest value is in the separation of a volatile substance from one less volatile, or one which is entirely fixed at the temperature of the flame. In this case we only take cognizance of the latter or fixed substance, although in many instances we make use of ignition for the purpose of changing the conditions of a substance, for example, the sesquioxide of chromium (Cr^{2}O^{3}) in its insoluble modification; and as a preliminary examination for the purpose of ascertaining whether the subject of inquiry be a combination of an organic or inorganic nature.

The apparatus used for this purpose are crucibles of platinum or silver, platinum foil, a platinum spoon, platinum wire or tongs, charcoal, glass tubes, and iron spoons.

(b.) Sublimation is that process by which we convert a solid substance into vapor by means of a strong heat. These vapors are condensed by refrigeration into the solid form. It may be termed a distillation of a solid substance. Sublimation is of great consequence in the detection of many substances; for instance, arsenic, antimony, mercury, etc.

The apparatus used for the purposes of sublimation consist of glass tubes closed at one end.

(c.) Fusion.—Many substances when exposed to a certain degree of heat lose their solid form, and are converted into a liquid. Those substances which do not become converted into the liquid state by heat, are said to be infusible. It is a convenient classification to arrange substances into those which are fusible with difficulty, and those which are easily fusible. Very often we resort to fusion for the purpose of decomposing a substance, or to cause it to enter into other combinations, by which means it is the more readily detected. If insoluble substances are fused with others more fusible (reagents) for the purpose of causing a combination which is soluble in water and acids, the operation is termed unclosing. These substances are particularly the silicates and the sulphates of the alkaline earths. The usual reagents resorted to for this purpose are carbonate of soda (NaO, CO^{2}), carbonate of potash (KO, CO^{2}), or still better, a mixture of the two in equal parts. In some cases we use the hydrate of barytes (BaO, HO) and the bisulphate of potash (KO, 2SO^{3}). The platinum spoon is generally used for this manipulation.

Substances are exposed to fusion for the purpose of getting a new combination which has such distinctive characteristics that we can class it under a certain group; or for the purpose of ascertaining at once what the substance may be. The reagents used for this purpose are borax (NaO, 2BrO^{3}) and the microcosmic salt (NaO, NH^{4}O, PO^{5}, HO). Charcoal and the platinum wire are used as supports for this kind of operation.

(d.) Oxidation.—The chemical combination of any substance with oxygen is termed oxidation, and the products are termed oxides. As these oxides have qualities differing from those which are non-oxidized, it therefore frequently becomes necessary to convert substances into oxides; or, if they are such, of a lower degree, to convert them into a higher degree of oxidation. These different states of oxidation frequently present characteristic marks of identity sufficient to enable us to draw conclusions in relation to the substance under examination. For instance, the oxidation of manganese, of arsenic, etc. The conditions necessary for oxidation, are high temperature and the free admission of air to the substance.

If the oxidation is effected through the addition of a substance containing oxygen (for instance, the nitrate or chlorate of potash) and the heating is accompanied by a lively deflagration and crackling noise, it is termed detonation. By this process we frequently effect the oxidation of a substance, and thus we prove the presence or the absence of a certain class of substances. For instance, if we detonate (as it is termed by the German chemists) the sulphide of antimony, or the sulphide of arsenic with nitrate of potash, we get the nitrate of antimony, or the nitrate of arsenic. The salts of nitric or chloric acid are determined by fusing them with the cyanide of potassium, because the salts of these acids detonate.

(e.) Reduction.—If we deprive an oxidized substance of its oxygen, we term the process reduction. This is effected by fusing the substance under examination with another which possesses a greater affinity for oxygen. The agents used for reduction are hydrogen, charcoal, soda, cyanide of potassium, etc. Substances generally, when in the unoxidized state, have such characteristic qualities, that they cannot very readily be mistaken for others. For this reason, reduction is a very excellent expedient for the purpose of discerning and classifying many substances.


We shall give here a brief description of the most necessary apparatus used for analysis in the dry way, and of their use.

The Blowpipe is a small instrument, made generally out of brass, silver, or German silver, and was principally used in earlier times for the purpose of soldering small pieces of metals together. It is generally made in the form of a tube, bent at a right angle, but without a sharp corner. The largest one is about seven inches long, and the smallest about two inches. The latter one terminates with a small point, with a small orifice. The first use of the blowpipe that we have recorded is that of a Swedish mining officer, who used it in the year 1738 for chemical purposes, but we have the most meagre accounts of his operations. In 1758 another Swedish mining officer, by the name of Cronstedt, published his "Use of the Blowpipe in Chemistry and Mineralogy," translated into English, in 1770, by Van Engestroem. Bergman extended its use, and after him Ghan and the venerable Berzelius (1821). The blowpipe most generally used in chemical examinations is composed of the following parts: (Fig. 1.) A is a little reservoir made air-tight by grinding the part B into it. This reservoir serves the purpose of retaining the moisture with which the air from the mouth is charged. A small conical tube is fitted to this reservoir. This tube terminates in a fine orifice. As this small point is liable to get clogged up with soot, etc., it is better that it should be made of platinum, so that it may be ignited. Two of these platinum tubes should be supplied, differing in the size of the orifice, by which a stronger or lighter current of flame may be projected from it. Metals, such as brass or German silver, are very liable to become dirty through oxidation, and when placed between the lips are liable to impart a disagreeable taste. To avoid this, the top of the tube must be supplied with a mouthpiece of ivory or horn C. The blowpipe here represented is the one used by Ghan, and approved by Berzelius. The trumpet mouthpiece was adopted by Plattner; it is pressed upon the lips while blowing, which is less tiresome than holding the mouthpiece between the lips, although many prefer the latter mode.

Dr. Black's blowpipe is as good an instrument and cheaper. It consists of two tubes, soldered at a right angle; the larger one, into which the air is blown, is of sufficient capacity to serve as a reservoir.

A chemist can, with a blowpipe and a piece of charcoal, determine many substances without any reagents, thus enabling him, even when travelling, to make useful investigations with means which are always at his disposal. There are pocket blowpipes as portable as a pencil case, such as Wollaston's and Mitscherlich's; these are objectionable for continued use as their construction requires the use of a metallic mouthpiece. Mr. Casamajor, of New York, has made one lately which has an ivory mouthpiece, and which, when in use, is like Dr. Black's.

The length of the blowpipe is generally seven or eight inches, but this depends very much upon the visual angle of the operators. A short-sighted person, of course, would require an instrument of less length than would suit a far-sighted person.

The purpose required of the blowpipe is to introduce a fine current of air into the flame of a candle or lamp, by which a higher degree of heat is induced, and consequently combustion is more rapidly accomplished.

By inspecting the flame of a candle burning under usual circumstances, we perceive at the bottom of the flame a portion which is of a light blue color (a b), Fig. 2, which gradually diminishes in size as it recedes from the wick, and disappears when it reaches the perpendicular side of the flame. In the midst of the flame there is a dark nucleus with a conical form (c). This is enveloped by the illuminating portion of the flame (d). At the exterior edge of the part d we perceive a thin, scarcely visible veil, a, e, e, which is broader near the apex of the flame. The action of the burning candle may be thus explained. The radiant heat from the flame melts the tallow or wax, which then passes up into the texture of the wick by capillary attraction until it reaches the glowing wick, where the heat decomposes the combustible matter into carbonated hydrogen (C^{4}H^{4}), and into carbonic oxide (CO).

While these gases are rising in hot condition, the air comes in contact with them and effects their combustion. The dark portion, c, of the flame is where the carbon and gases have not a sufficiency of air for their thorough combustion; but gradually they become mixed with air, although not then sufficient for complete combustion. The hydrogen is first oxidized or burnt, and then the carbon is attacked by the air, although particles of carbon are separated, and it is these, in a state of intense ignition, which produce the illumination. By bringing any oxidizable substance into this portion of the flame, it oxidizes very quickly in consequence of the high temperature and the free access of air. For that reason this part of the flame is termed the oxidizing flame, while the illuminating portion, by its tendency to abstract oxygen for the purpose of complete combustion, easily reduces oxidated substances brought into it, and it is, therefore, called the flame of reduction. In the oxidizing flame, on the contrary, all the carbon which exists in the interior of the flame is oxidized into carbonic acid (CO^{2}) and carbonic oxide (CO), while the blue color of the cone of the flame is caused by the complete combustion of the carbonic oxide. These two portions of the flame—the oxidizing and the reducing—are the principal agents of blowpipe analysis.

If we introduce a fine current of air into a flame, we notice the following: The air strikes first the dark nucleus, and forcing the gases beyond it, mixes with them, by which oxygen is mingled freely with them. This effects the complete combustion of the gases at a certain distance from the point of the blowpipe. At this place the flame has the highest temperature, forming there the point of a blue cone. The illuminated or reducing portion of the flame is enveloped outside and inside by a very hot flame, whereby its own temperature is so much increased that in this reduction-flame many substances will undergo fusion which would prove perfectly refractory in a common flame. The exterior scarcely visible part loses its form, is diminished, and pressed more to a point, by which its heating power is greatly increased.

The Blast of Air.—By using the blowpipe for chemical purposes, the effect intended to be produced is an uninterrupted steady stream of air for many minutes together, if necessary, without an instant's cessation. Therefore, the blowing can only be effected with the muscles of the cheeks, and not by the exertion of the lungs. It is only by this means that a steady constant stream of air can be kept up, while the lungs will not be injured by the deprival of air. The details of the proper manner of using the blowpipe are really more difficult to describe than to acquire by practice; therefore the pupil is requested to apply himself at once to its practice, by which he will soon learn to produce a steady current of air, and to distinguish the different flames from each other. We would simply say that the tongue must be applied to the roof of the mouth, so as to interrupt the communication between the passage of the nostrils and the mouth. The operator now fills his mouth with air, which is to be passed through the pipe by compressing the muscles of the cheeks, while he breathes through the nostrils, and uses the palate as a valve. When the mouth becomes nearly empty, it is replenished by the lungs in an instant, while the tongue is momentarily withdrawn from the roof of the mouth. The stream of air can be continued for a long time, without the least fatigue or injury to the lungs. The easiest way for the student to accustom himself to the use of the blowpipe, is first to learn to fill the mouth with air, and while the lips are kept firmly closed to breathe freely through the nostrils. Having effected this much, he may introduce the mouthpiece of the blowpipe between his lips. By inflating the cheeks, and breathing through the nostrils, he will soon learn to use the instrument without the least fatigue. The air is forced through the tube against the flame by the action of the muscles of the cheeks, while he continues to breathe without interruption through the nostrils. Having become acquainted with this process, it only requires some practice to produce a steady jet of flame. A defect in the nature of the combustible used, as bad oil, such as fish oil, or oil thickened by long standing or by dirt, dirty cotton wick, or an untrimmed one, or a dirty wickholder, or a want of steadiness of the hand that holds the blowpipe, will prevent a steady jet of flame. But frequently the fault lies in the orifice of the jet, or too small a hole, or its partial stoppage by dirt, which will prevent a steady jet of air, and lead to difficulty. With a good blowpipe the air projects the entire flame, forming a horizontal, blue cone of flame, which converges to a point at about an inch from the wick, with a larger, longer, and more luminous flame enveloping it, and terminating to a point beyond that of the blue flame.

To produce an efficient flame of oxidation, put the point of the blowpipe into the flame about one third the diameter of the wick, and about one twelfth of an inch above it. This, however, depends upon the size of the flame used. Blow strong enough to keep the flame straight and horizontal, using the largest orifice for the purpose. Upon examining the flame thus produced, we will observe a long, blue flame, a b, Fig. 3, which letters correspond with the same letters in Fig. 2. But this flame has changed its form, and contains all the combustible gases. It forms now a thin, blue cone, which converges to a point about an inch from the wick. This point of the flame possesses the highest intensity of temperature, for there the combustion of the gases is the most complete. In the original flame, the hottest part forms the external envelope, but here it is compressed more into a point, forming the cone of the blue flame, and likewise an envelope of flame surrounding the blue one, extending beyond it from a to c, and presenting a light bluish or brownish color. The external flame has the highest temperature at d, but this decreases from d to c.

If there is a very high temperature, the oxidation is not effected so readily in many cases, unless the substance is removed a little from the flame; but if the heat be not too high, it is readily oxidized in the flame, or near its cone. If the current of air is blown too freely or violently into the flame, more air is forced there than is sufficient to consume the gases. This superfluous air only acts detrimentally, by cooling the flame.

In general the operation proceeds best when the substance is kept at a dull red heat. The blue cone must be kept free from straggling rays of the yellow or reduction flame. If the analysis be effected on charcoal, the blast should not be too strong, as a part of the coal would be converted into carbonic oxide, which would act antagonistically to the oxidation. The oxidation flame requires a steady current of air, for the purpose of keeping the blue cone constantly of the same length. For the purpose of acquiring practice, the following may be done: Melt a little molybdenic acid with some borax, upon a platinum wire, about the sixteenth of an inch from the point of the blue cone. In the pure oxidation flame, a clear yellowish glass is formed; but as soon as the reduction flame reaches it, or the point of the blue cone touches it, the color of the bead changes to a brown, which, finally, after a little longer blowing, becomes quite dark, and loses its transparency. The cause of this is, that the molybdenic acid is very easily reduced to a lower degree of oxidation, or to the oxide of molybdenum. The flame of oxidation will again convert this oxide into the acid, and this conversion is a good test of the progress of the student in the use of the blowpipe. In cases where we have to separate a more oxidizable substance from a less one, we use with success the blue cone, particularly if we wish to determine whether a substance has the quality, when submitted to heat in the blue cone, of coloring the external flame.

A good reduction flame can be obtained by the use of a small orifice at the point of the blowpipe. In order to produce such a flame, hold the point of the blowpipe higher above the wick, while the nozzle must not enter the flame so far as in the production of the oxidation flame. The point of the blowpipe should only touch the flame, while the current of air blown into it must be stronger than into the oxidation flame. If we project a stream, in the manner mentioned, into the flame, from the smaller side of the wick to the middle, we shall perceive the flame changed to a long, narrow, luminous cone, a b, Fig. 4, the end a of which is enveloped by the same dimly visible blueish colored portion of the flame a, c, which we perceive in the original flame, with its point at c. The portion close above the wick, presenting the dull appearance, is occasioned by the rising gases which have not supplied to them enough oxygen to consume them entirely. The hydrogen is consumed, while the carbon is separated in a state of bright ignition, and forms the internal flame.

Directly above the wick, the combustion of the gases is least complete, and forms there likewise, as is the case in the free flame, a dark blue nucleus d.

If the oxide of a metal is brought into the luminous portion of the flame produced as above, so that the flame envelopes the substance perfectly, the access of air is prevented. The partially consumed gases have now a strong affinity for oxygen, under the influence of the intense heat of that part of the flame. The substance is thus deprived of a part, or the whole, of its oxygen, and becomes reduced according to the strength of the affinity which the substance itself has for oxygen. If the reduction of a substance is undertaken on platinum, by fusion with a flux, and if the oxide is difficult to reduce, the reduction will be completely effected only in the luminous part of the flame. But if a substance be reduced on charcoal, the reduction will take place in the blue part of the flame, as long as the access of air is cut off; but it is the luminous part of the flame which really possesses the greatest reducing power.

The following should be observed in order to procure a good reduction flame:

The wick should not be too long, that it may make a smoke, nor too short, otherwise the flame will be too small to produce a heat strong enough for reduction.

The wick must be free from all loose threads, and from charcoal.

The blast should be continued for a considerable time without intermission, otherwise reduction cannot be effected.

For the purpose of acquiring practice, the student may fuse the oxide of manganese with borax, upon a platinum wire, in the oxidation flame, when a violet-red glass will be obtained; or if too much of the oxide be used, a glass of a dark color and opaque will be obtained. By submitting this glass to the reduction flame, it will become colorless in correspondence to the perfection with which the flame is produced. Or a piece of tin may be fused upon charcoal, and kept in that state for a considerable time, while it presents the appearance of a bright metal on the surface. This will require dexterity in the operator; for, if the oxidation flame should chance to touch the bright metal only for a moment, it is coated with an infusible oxide.

COMBUSTION.—Any flame of sufficient size can be used for blowpipe operations. It may be either the flame of a candle of tallow or wax, or the flame of a lamp. The flame of a wax candle, or of an oil lamp is most generally used. Sometimes a lamp is used filled with a solution of spirits of turpentine in strong alcohol. If a candle is used, it is well to cut the wick off short, and to bend the wick a little toward the substance experimented upon. But candles are not the best for blowpipe operations, as the radiant heat, reflecting from the substance upon the wax or tallow, will cause it to melt and run down the side of the candle; while again, candles do not give heat enough. The lamp is much the most desirable. The subjoined figure, from Berzelius, is perhaps the best form of lamp. It is made of japanned tin-plate, about four inches in length, and has the form and arrangement represented in Fig. 5. K is the lamp, fastened on the stand, S, by a screw, C, and is movable upwards or downwards, as represented in the figure. The posterior end of the lamp may be about one inch square, and at its anterior end, E, about three-quarters of an inch square. The under side of this box may be round, as seen in the figure. The oil is poured into the orifice, A, which has a cap screwed over it. C' is a wickholder for a flat lamp-wick. a is a socket containing the wick, which, when not in use, is secured from dirt by the cap. The figures B and a' give the forms of the cap and socket. The best combustible for this lamp is the refined rape-seed oil, or pure sweet oil. When this lamp is in use, there must be no loose threads, or no charcoal on the wick, or these will produce a smoky flame. The wick, likewise, should not be pulled up too high, as the same smoky flame would be produced.

THE SPIRIT-LAMP.—This is a short, strong glass lamp, with a cap, B, Fig. 6, fitted to it by grinding, to prevent the evaporation of the alcohol. The neck a contains a tube C, made of silver, or of tin plate, and which contains the wick. Brass would not answer so well for this tube, as the spirits would oxidize it, and thus impart color to the flame. The wickholder must cover the edge of the neck, but not fit tight within the tube, otherwise, by its expansion, it will break the glass. It is not necessary that alcohol, very highly rectified, should be burnt in this lamp, although if too much diluted with water, enough heat will not be given out. Alcohol of specific gravity 0.84 to 0.86 is the best.

This lamp is generally resorted to by blowpipe analysts, for the purpose of experiments in glass apparatus, as the oily combustibles will coat the glass with soot. Some substances, when exposed to the dark part of the flame, become reduced and, in statu nascendi, evaporated; but by passing through the external part of the flame, they become oxidized again, and impart a color to the flame. The spirit flame is the most efficient one for the examination of substances the nature of which we wish to ascertain through color imparted to the flame, as that of the spirit-lamp being colorless, is, consequently, most easily and thoroughly recognized by the slightest tinge imparted to it.

It is necessary that in operating with such minute quantities of substances as are used in blowpipe analysis, that they should have some appropriate support. In order that no false results may ensue, it is necessary that the supports should be of such a nature that they will not form a chemical combination with the substance while it is exposed to fusion or ignition. Appropriate supports for the different blowpipe experiments are charcoal, platinum instruments, and glass tubes.

(a.) Charcoal.—The value of charcoal as a support may be stated as follows:

1. The charcoal is infusible, and being a poor conductor of heat, a substance can be exposed to a higher degree of heat upon it than upon any other substance.

2. It is very porous, and therefore allows easily fusible substances (such as alkalies and fluxes) to pass into it, while other substances less fusible, such as metals, to remain unabsorbed.

3. It has likewise a great reducing power.

The best kind of charcoal is that of pinewood, linden, willow, or alderwood, or any other soft wood. Coal from the firwood sparkles too freely, while that of the hard woods contains too much iron in its ashes. Smooth pieces, free from bark and knots, should be selected. It should be thoroughly burnt, and the annual rings or growths should be as close together as possible.

If the charcoal is in masses, it should be sawed into pieces about six inches in length by about two inches broad, but so that the year-growths run perpendicular to the broadest side, as the other sides, by their unequal structure, burn unevenly.

That the substance under examination may not be carried off by the blast, small conical concavities should be cut in the broad side of the charcoal, between the year-growths, with a conical tube of tin plate about two or three inches long, and one quarter of an inch at one end, and half an inch at the other. These edges are made sharp with a file. The widest end of this charcoal borer is used for the purpose of making cavities for cupellation.

In places where the proper kind of charcoal is difficult to procure, it is economical to cut common charcoal into pieces about an inch broad, and the third of an inch thick. In each of these little pieces small cavities should be cut with the small end of the borer. When these pieces of charcoal are required for use, they must be fastened to a narrow slip of tin plate, one end of which is bent into the form of a hook, under which the plate of charcoal is pushed.

In general, we use the charcoal support where we wish to reduce metallic oxides, to prevent oxidation, or to test the fusibility of a substance. There is another point to which we would direct the student. Those metals which are volatile in the reduction flame, appear as oxides in the oxidation flame. These oxides make sublimates upon the charcoal close in the vicinity of the substance, or where it rested, and by their peculiar color indicate pretty correctly the species of minerals experimented upon.

(b.) Platinum Supports.—The metal platinum is infusible in the blowpipe flame, and is such a poor conductor of heat that a strip of it may be held close to that portion of it which is red hot without the least inconvenience to the fingers. It is necessary that the student should be cognizant of those substances which would not be appropriate to experiment upon if placed on platinum. Metals should not be treated upon platinum apparatus, nor should the easily reducible oxides, sulphides, nor chlorides, as these substances will combine with the platinum, and thus render it unfit for further use in analysis.

(c.) Platinum Wire.—As the color of the flame cannot be well discerned when the substance is supported upon charcoal, in consequence of the latter furnishing false colors, by its own reflection, to the substances under examination, we use platinum wire for that purpose, when we wish to examine those substances which give indications by the peculiar color which they impart to fluxes. The wire should be about as thick as No. 16 or 18 wire, or about 0.4 millimetre, and cut into pieces about from two and a half to three inches in length. The end of each piece is crooked. In order that these pieces should remain clear of dirt, and ready for use, they should be kept in a glass of water. To use them, we dip the wetted hooked end into the powdered flux (borax or microcosmic salt) some of which will adhere, when we fuse it in the flame of the blowpipe to a bead. This bead hanging in the hook, must be clear and colorless. Should there not adhere a sufficient quantity of the flux in the first trial to form a bead sufficiently large, the hook must be dipped a second time in the flux and again submitted to the blowpipe flame. To fix the substance to be examined to the bead, it is necessary, while the latter is hot, to dip it in the powdered substance. If the hook is cold, we moisten the powder a little, and then dip the hook into it, and then expose it to the oxidation flame, by keeping it exposed to a regular blast until the substance and the flux are fused together, and no further alteration is produced by the flame.

The platinum wire can be used except where reduction to the metallic state is required. Every reduction and oxidation experiment, if the results are to be known by the color of the fluxes, should be effected upon platinum wire. At the termination of the experiment or investigation, if it be one, to, clean the wire, place it in water, which will dissolve the bead.

(d.) Platinum Foil.—For the heating or fusing of a substance, whereby its reduction would be avoided, we use platinum foil as a support. This foil should be of the thickness of good writing paper, and from two and a half to three inches long, by about half an inch broad, and as even and smooth as possible. If it should become injured by long use, cut the injured end off, and if it should prove too short to be held with the fingers, a pair of forceps may be used to grasp it, or it may be placed on a piece of charcoal.

(e.) Platinum Spoon.—When we require to fuse substances with the acid sulphate of potash, or to oxidize them by detonation with nitrate of potash, whereby we wish to preserve the oxide produced, we generally use a little spoon of platinum, about from nine to fifteen millimetres[1] in diameter, and shaped as represented in Fig. 7. The handle of this spoon is likewise of platinum, and should fit into a piece of cork, or be held with the forceps.

[1] The French millimetre is about the twenty-fifth part of an English inch.

(f.) Platinum Forceps or Tongs.—We frequently are necessitated to examine small splinters of metals or minerals directly in the blowpipe flame. These pieces of metallic substances are held with the forceps or tongs represented as in Fig. 8, where ac is formed of steel, and aa are platinum bars inserted between the steel plates. At bb are knobs which by pressure so separate the platinum bars aa, that any small substance can be inserted between them.

(g.) Iron Spoons.—For a preliminary examination iron spoons are desirable. They may be made of sheet iron, about one-third of an inch in diameter, and are very useful in many examinations where the use of platinum would not be desirable.

(h.) Glass Tubes.—For the separation and recognition of volatile substances before the blowpipe flame, we use glass tubes. These should be about one-eighth of an inch in diameter, and cut into pieces about five or six inches in length. These tubes should have both ends open.

Tubes are of great value in the examination of volatile substances which require oxidizing or roasting, and heating with free access of air. Also to ascertain whether a substance under examination will sublimate volatile matter of a certain appearance. Such substances are selenium, sulphur, arsenic, antimony, and tellurium. These substances condense on a cool part of the tube, and they present characteristic appearances, or they may be recognized by their peculiar smell. These tubes must be made of the best kind of glass, white and difficult of fusion, and entirely free from lead. The substance to be examined must be put in the tube near one end, and exposed to the flame of the blowpipe. The end containing the substance must be held lower than the other end, and must be moved a little over the spirit-lamp before a draught of air is produced through the tube. It is a good plan to have a number of these tubes on hand. After having used a tube we cut off that end of it which contained the substance, with a file, and clean it from the sublimate, either by heating it over the spirit-lamp, or with a piece of paper wound around a wire. It sometimes happens that the substance falls out of the tube before it becomes sufficiently melted to adhere to the glass. To obviate this, we bend the tube not far from the end, at an obtuse angle, and place the substance in the angle, whereby the tube may be lowered as much as necessary. Fig. 9 will give the student a comprehension of the processes described, and of the manner of bending the tubes.

(i.) Glass Tubes closed at one End.—If we wish to expose volatile substances to heat, with the exclusion of air as much as possible, or to ascertain the contents of water, or other volatile fluids, or for the purpose of heating substances which will decrepitate, we use glass tubes closed at one end. These tubes must be about one-eighth of an inch wide, and from two to three inches in length. They should be made of white glass, difficult of fusion, and free from lead. They should be closed at one end, as figured in the margin, Fig. 10.

When a substance is to be examined for the purpose of ascertaining whether it contains combustible matter, as sulphur or arsenic, and where we wish to avoid oxidation, we use these tubes without extending the closed end, in order that there may be as little air admitted as possible, as is represented in tube B. But when a substance to be examined is to be tested for water, or other incombustible volatile matters, we employ tubes with little bulbs blown at one end, such as represented at tube A. Here there is room for a circulation of air at the bottom of the tube, by which the volatile matter rises more easily. In some cases, it is necessary to draw the closed end out to a fine point, as in the tubes C and D. Either one or the other of these tubes is employed, depending upon the nature of the substance used. The sublimates condense at the upper part of the tube a, and can be there examined and recognized. These tubes, before being used, must be thoroughly dried and cleaned. In experimenting with them, they should not be exposed at once to the hottest part of the flame, but should be submitted to the heat gradually. If the substance is of such a nature that it will sublime at a low heat, the tube should be held more horizontal, while a higher heat is attained by bringing the tube to a more vertical position.


Edulcorator or Washing Bottle.—Take a glass bottle of the capacity of about twelve ounces, and close the mouth of it very tight with a cork, through which a short glass tube is fitted airtight. The external end of this tube is drawn out to a point, with a very fine orifice. The bottle should be filled about half full of water. By blowing air into the bottle through the tube, and then turning it downwards, the compressed air will expel a fine stream of water through the fine orifice with considerable force. We use this washing bottle, Fig. 11, for the purpose of rinsing the small particles of coal from the reduced metals.

Agate Mortar and Pestle.—This mortar is used for the purpose of pulverizing hard substances, and for mixing fluxes. As this mortar will not yield to abrasion, there is no danger of any foreign matter becoming mixed with the substance pulverized in it. It should be cleaned after use with pumice stone. Steel mortars are very useful for the pulverization of hard bodies; but for all those substances which require great care in their analysis, and which can be obtained in very minute quantity, the agate mortar alone should be used.

A hammer made of steel is necessary. This should have the edge square.

A small anvil, polished on the surface, is also required. It is frequently used to test the malleability of metals.

A knife, for the purpose of ascertaining the hardness of minerals.

The student should also be provided with several three-edged files, and likewise with some flat ones.

A microscope, an instrument with two lenses, or with such a combination of lenses, that they may be used double or single, is frequently necessary for the examination of blowpipe experiments, or the reaction of the fluxes. Common lenses, howsoever cheap they may be, are certainly not recommended. A microscope with achromatic lenses can now be purchased so cheap that there is no longer any necessity of procuring one with the common lens. Besides, there is no reliability whatever to be placed in the revelations of the common lens; while on the contrary, the deceptive appearances which minute objects assume beneath such lenses are more injurious than otherwise. A small cheap set of magnifying glasses are all that is required for the purpose of blowpipe analysis, Fig. 12.

A small magnet should be kept on hand, for the purpose of testing reduced metals.

Nippers, for the purpose of breaking off pieces of minerals for analysis, without injuring the entire piece, are indispensable, Fig 13.

A pair of scissors is required to trim the wick of the and for the trimming of the edge of platinum foil.

A small spatula should be kept for the purpose of mixing substances with fluxes.


Those substances which possess the property of acting upon other substances, in such a characteristic manner that they can be recognized, either by their color, or by their effervescence, or by the peculiar precipitation produced, are termed reagents. The phenomena thus produced is termed reaction. We use those reagents, or tests, for the purpose of ascertaining the presence or the absence of certain substances, through the peculiar phenomena produced when brought in contact with them.

The number of reagents employed in blowpipe analysis is not great, and therefore we shall here give a brief description of their preparation and use. It is indispensably necessary that they should be chemically pure, as every admixture of a foreign substance would only produce a false result. Some of them have a strong affinity for water, or are deliquescent, and consequently absorb it greedily from the air. These must be kept in glass bottles, with glass stoppers, fitted air-tight by grinding.


1. Carbonate of Soda.—(NaO, CO^{2}) Wash the bicarbonate of soda (NaO, 2CO^{2}) upon a filter, with cold water, until the filtrate ceases to give, after neutralization with diluted nitric acid (NO^{5}), a precipitate with nitrate of baryta, (BaO, NO^{5}), or nitrate of silver, (AgO, NO^{5}). That left upon the filter we make red hot in a platinum, silver, or porcelain dish. One atom of carbonic acid is expelled, and the residue is carbonate of soda.

A solution of soda must not be changed by the addition of sulphide of ammonium. And when neutralized with hydrochloric acid, and evaporated to dryness, and again dissolved in water, there must be no residue left.

Carbonate of soda is an excellent agent in reduction, in consequence of its easy fusibility, whereby it causes the close contact of the oxides with the charcoal support, so that the blowpipe flame can reach every part of the substance under examination.

For the decomposition and determination of insoluble substances, particularly the silicates, carbonate of soda is indispensable. But for the latter purpose, we use with advantage a mixture of ten parts of soda and thirteen parts of dry carbonate of potash, which mixture fuses more easily than the carbonate of soda alone.

2. Hydrate of Baryta (BaO, HO).—This salt is used sometimes for the detection of alkalies in silicates. Mix one part of the substance with about four parts of the hydrate of baryta, and expose it to the blowpipe flame. The hydrate of baryta combines with the silicic acid, and forms the super-basic silicate of baryta, while the oxides become free. The fused mass must be dissolved in hydrochloric acid, which converts the oxides into chlorides. Evaporate to dryness, and dissolve the residue in water. The silicic acid remains insoluble.

The hydrate of baryta is prepared by mixing six parts of finely powdered heavy-spar (BaO, SO_{3}) with one part of charcoal and one and a half parts of wheat flour, and exposing this mixture in a Hessian crucible with a cover to a strong and continuous red heat. The cooled chocolate-brown mass must be boiled with twenty parts of water, and, while boiling, there must be added the oxide of copper in sufficient quantity, or until the liquid will not impart a black color to a solution of acetate of lead (PbO, [=]A). The liquid must be filtered while hot, and as it cools the hydrate of baryta appears in crystals. These crystals must be washed with a little cold water, and then heated at a low temperature in a porcelain dish until the crystal water is expelled. The hydrate of baryta melts by a low red heat without losing its water of hydration.

3. Bisulphate of Potassa (KO, 2SO^{3}).—At a red heat the half of the sulphuric acid of this salt becomes free, and thus separates and expels volatile substances, by which we can recognize lithium, boracic acid, nitric acid, fluoric acid, bromine, iodine, chlorine; or it decomposes and reveals some other compounds, as, for instance, the salts of the titanic, tantalic and tungstic acids. The bisulphate of potash is also used for the purpose of converting a substance into sulphate, or to free it at once from certain constituents. These sulphates are dissolved in water, by which we are enabled to effect the separation of its various constituents.

PREPARATION.—Two parts of coarsely powdered sulphate of potash are placed in a porcelain crucible, and one part of pure sulphuric acid is poured over it. Expose this to heat over the spirit-lamp, until the whole becomes a clear liquid. The cooled mass must be of a pure white color, and may be got out of the crucible by inverting it. It must be kept in a fine powder.

4. Oxalate of Potassa (KO, [=]O).—Dissolve bioxalate of potash in water, and neutralize with carbonate of potash. Evaporate the solution at a low heat to dryness, stirring constantly towards the close of the operation. The dry residue is to be kept in the form of a powder.

The oxalate of potash, at a low red heat, eliminates a considerable quantity of carbonic oxide, which, having a strong affinity for oxygen, with which it forms carbonic acid, it is therefore a powerful agent of reduction. It is in many cases preferable to carbonate of soda.

5. Cyanide of Potassium (Cy, K).—In the dry method of analysis, this salt is one of the most efficient agents for the reduction of metallic oxides. It separates not only the metals from their oxygen compounds, but likewise from their sulphur compounds, while it is converted through the action of the oxygen into carbonate of potash, or, in the latter case, combines with the sulphur and forms the sulphureted cyanide of potassium. This separation is facilitated by its easy fusibility. But in many cases it melts too freely, and therefore it is better to mix it, for blowpipe analysis, with an equal quantity of soda. This mixture has great powers of reduction, and it is easily absorbed by the charcoal, while the globules of reduced metal are visible in the greatest purity.

PREPARATION.—Deprive the ferrocyanide of potassium (2KCy + FeCy) of its water by heating it over the spirit-lamp in a porcelain dish. Mix eight parts of this anhydrous salt with three parts of dry carbonate of potash, and fuse the mixture by a low red heat in a Hessian, or still better, in an iron crucible with a cover, until the mass flows quiet and clear, and a sample taken up with an iron spatula appears perfectly white. Pour the clear mass out into a china or porcelain dish or an iron plate, but with caution that the fine iron particles which have settled to the bottom, do not mix with it. The white fused mass must be powdered, and kept from the air. The cyanide of potassium thus prepared, contains some of the cyanate of potassa, but the admixture does not deteriorate it for blowpipe use. It must be perfectly white, free from iron, charcoal, and sulphide of potassium. The solution of it in water must give a white precipitate with a solution of lead, and when neutralized with hydrochloric acid, and evaporated to dryness, it must not give an insoluble residue by dissolving it again in water.

6. Nitrate of Potassa, Saltpetre (KO, NO^{5}).—Saturate boiling water with commercial saltpetre, filter while hot in a beaker glass, which is to be placed in cold water, and stir while the solution is cooling. The greater part of the saltpetre will crystallize in very fine crystals. Place these crystals upon a filter, and wash them with a little cold water, until a solution of nitrate of silver ceases to exhibit any reaction upon the filtrate. These crystals must be dried and powdered.

Saltpetre, when heated with substances easy of oxidation, yields its oxygen quite readily, and is, therefore, a powerful means of oxidation. In blowpipe analysis, we use it particularly to convert sulphides (as those of arsenic, antimony, &c.) into oxides and acids. We furthermore use saltpetre for the purpose of producing a complete oxidation of small quantities of metallic oxides, which oxidize with difficulty in the oxidation flame, so that the color of the bead, in its highest state of oxidation, shall be visible, as for instance, manganese dissolved in the microcosmic salt.

7. Biborate of soda, borax—(NaO + 2BO^{3}).—Commercial borax is seldom pure enough for a reagent. A solution of borax must not give a precipitate with carbonate of potassa; or, after the addition of dilute nitric acid, it must remain clear upon the addition of nitrate of silver, or nitrate of baryta. Or a small piece of the dry salt, fused upon a platinum wire, must give a clear and uncolored glass, as well in the oxidation flame as in the reduction flame. If these tests indicate a foreign admixture, the borax must be purified by re-crystallization. These crystals are washed upon a filter, dried, and heated, to expel the crystal water, or until the mass ceases to swell up, and it is reduced to powder.

Boracic acid is incombustible, and has a strong affinity for oxides when fused with them; therefore, it not only directly combines with oxides, but it expels, by fusion, all other volatile acids from their salts. Furthermore, boracic acid promotes the oxidation of metals and sulphur, and induces haloid compounds, in the oxidation flame, to combine with the rising oxides. Borates thus made, melt generally by themselves; but admixed with borate of soda, they fuse much more readily, give a clear bead. Borax acts either as a flux, or through the formation of double salts.

In borax, we have the action of free boracic acid, as well as borate of soda, and for that reason it is an excellent reagent for blowpipe analysis.

All experiments in which borax is employed should be effected upon platinum wire. The hook of the wire should be heated red hot, and then dipped into the powdered borax. This should be exposed to the oxidation flame, when it will be fused to a bead, which adheres to the hook. This should be then dipped into the powdered substance, which will adhere to it if it is hot; but if the bead is cool, it must be previously moistened. Expose this bead to the oxidation flame until it ceases to change, then allow it to cool, when it should be exposed to the reduction flame. Look for the following in the oxidation flame:

(1.) Whether the heated substance is fused to a clear bead or not, and whether the bead remains transparent after cooling. The beads of some substances, for instance those of the alkaline earths, are clear while hot; but upon cooling, are milk-white and enamelled. Some substances give a clear bead when heated and when cold, but appear enamelled when heated intermittingly or with a flame which changes often from oxidation to reduction, or with an unsteady flame produced by too strong a blast. The reason is an incomplete fusion, while from the basic borate compound a part of the base is separated. As the boracic acid is capable of dissolving more in the heat, a bead will be clear while hot, enamelled when cold, as a part in the latter instance will become separated.

(2.) Whether the substance dissolves easily or not, and whether it intumesces from arising gases.

(3.) Whether the bead, when exposed to the oxidation flame, exhibits any color, and whether the color remains after the bead shall have cooled, or whether the color fades.

(4.) Whether the bead exhibits any other reaction in the reduction flame.

The bead should not be overcharged with the substance under examination, or it will become colored so deeply as not to present any transparency, or the color light enough to discern its hue.

8. Microcosmic Salt—Phosphate of Soda and Ammonia—(NaO, NH^{4}O + PO^{5}).—Dissolve six parts of phosphate of soda (2NaO, HO, PO^{5}), and one part of pure chloride of Ammonium (NH^{4}Cl.), in two parts of boiling water, and allow it to cool. The greatest part of the formed double salt crystallizes, while the mother-liquid contains chloride of sodium, and some of the double salt. The crystals must be dissolved in as little boiling water as possible, and re-crystallized. These crystals must be dried and powdered.

When this double salt is heated, the water and the ammonia escape, while the incombustible residue has a composition similar to borax, viz., a free acid and an easily fusible salt. The effect of it is, therefore, similar to the borax. The free phosphoric acid expels, likewise, most other acids from their combinations, and combines with metallic oxides.

For supports, the platinum wire may be used, but the hook must be smaller than when borax is used, or the bead will not adhere. As for all the other experiments with this salt, the microscosmic salt is used the same as borax.

9. Nitrate of Cobalt.—(CoO, NO^{5}).—This salt can be prepared by dissolving pure oxide of cobalt in diluted nitric acid, and evaporating to dryness with a low heat. The dry residue should be dissolved in ten parts of water, and filtered. The filtrate is now ready for use, and should be kept in a bottle with a glass stopper. If the pure oxide of cobalt cannot be procured, then it may be prepared by mixing two parts of finely powdered glance of cobalt with four parts of saltpetre, and one part of dry carbonate of potassa with one part of water free from carbonate of soda. This mixture should be added in successive portions into a red-hot Hessian crucible, and the heat continued until the mass is fused, or at least greatly diminished in volume. The cooled mass must be triturated with hot water, and then heated with hydrochloric acid until it is dissolved and forms a dark green solution, which generally presents a gelatinous appearance, occasioned by separated silica. The solution is to be evaporated to dryness, the dry residue moistened with hydrochloric acid, boiled with water, filtered and neutralized while hot with carbonate of ammonia, until it ceases to give an acid reaction with test-paper. This must now be filtered again, and carbonate of potassa added to the filtrate as long as a precipitate is produced. This precipitate is brought upon a filter and washed thoroughly, and then dissolved in diluted nitric acid. This is evaporated to dryness, and one part of it is dissolved in ten parts of water for use.

The oxide of cobalt combines, with strong heat in the oxidation flame, with various earths and infusible metallic oxides, and thus produces peculiarly colored compounds, and is therefore used for their detection; (alumina, magnesia, oxide of zinc, oxide of tin, etc.) Some of the powdered substance is heated upon charcoal in the flame of oxidation, and moistened with a drop of the solution of the nitrate of cobalt, when the oxidation flame is thrown upon it. Alumina gives a pure blue color, the oxide of zinc a bright green, magnesia a light red, and the oxide of tin a bluish-green color; but the latter is only distinctly visible after cooling.

The dropping bottle, is the most useful apparatus for the purpose of getting small quantities of fluid. It is composed of a glass tube, drawn out to a point, with a small orifice. This tube passes through the cork of the bottle. By pressing in the cork into the neck of the bottle, the air within will be compressed, and the liquid will rise in the tube. If now we draw the cork out, with the tube filled with the fluid, and pressing the finger upon the upper orifice, the fluid can be forced out in the smallest quantity, even to a fraction of a drop.

10. Tin.—This metal is used in the form of foil, cut into strips about half an inch wide. Tin is very susceptible of oxidation, and therefore deprives oxidized substances of their oxygen very quickly, when heated in contact with them. It is employed in blowpipe analysis, for the purpose of producing in glass beads a lower degree of oxidation, particularly if the substance under examination contains only a small portion of such oxide. These oxides give a characteristic color to the bead, and thus are detected. The bead is heated upon charcoal in the reduction flame, with a small portion of the tin, whereby some of the tin is melted and mixes with the bead. The bead should be reduced quickly in the reduction flame, for by continuing the blast too great a while, the oxide of tin separates the other oxides in the reduced or metallic state, while we only require that they shall only be converted into a sub-oxide, in order that its peculiar color may be recognized in the bead. The addition of too much tin causes the bead to present an unclean appearance, and prevents the required reaction.

11. Silica (SiO^{3}).—This acid does not even expel carbonic acid in the wet way, but in a glowing heat it expels the strongest volatile acids. In blowpipe analysis, we use it fused with carbonate of soda to a bead, as a test for sulphuric acid, and in some cases for phosphoric acid. Also with carbonate of soda and borax, for the purpose of separating tin from copper.

Finely powdered quartz will answer these purposes. If it cannot be procured, take well washed white sand and mix it with two parts of carbonate of soda and two parts of carbonate of potassa. Melt the materials together, pound up the cooled mass, dissolve in hot water, filter, add to the filtrate hydrochloric acid, and evaporate to dryness. Moisten the dry residue with hydrochloric acid, and boil in water. The silica remains insoluble. It should be washed well, dried, and heated, and then reduced to powder.

12. TEST-PAPERS.—(a.) Blue, Litmus Paper.—Dissolve one part of litmus in six or eight parts of water, and filter. Divide the filtrate into two parts. In one of the parts neutralize the free alkali by stirring it with a glass rod dipped in diluted sulphuric acid, until the fluid appears slightly red. Then mix the two parts together, and draw slips of unsized paper, free from alkali, such as fine filtering paper. Hang these strips on a line to dry, in the shade and free from floating dust. If the litmus solution is too light, it will not give sufficient characteristic indications, and if too dark it is not sensitive enough. The blue color of the paper should be changed to red, when brought in contact with a solution containing the minutest trace of free acid; but it should be recollected that the neutral salts of the heavy metals produce the same change.

(b.) Red Litmus Paper.—The preparation of the red litmus paper is similar to the above, the acid being added until a red color is obtained. Reddened litmus paper is a very sensitive reagent for free alkalies, the carbonates of the alkalies, alkaline earths, sulphides of the alkalies and of the alkaline earths, and alkaline salts with weak acids, such as boracic acid. These substances restore the original blue color of the litmus.

(c.) Logwood Paper.—Take bruised logwood, boil it in water, filter, and proceed as above. Logwood paper is a very delicate test for free alkalies, which impart a violet tint to it. It is sometimes used to detect hydrofluoric acid, which changes its color to yellow.

All the test-papers are to be cut into narrow strips, and preserved in closely stopped vials. The especial employment of the test-papers we shall allude to in another place.


13. Fused Boracic Acid (BO^{3}).—The commercial article is sufficiently pure for blowpipe analysis. It is employed in some cases to detect phosphoric acid, and also minute traces of copper in lead compounds.

14. Fluorspar (CaFl^{2}).—This substance should be pounded fine and strongly heated. Fluorspar is often mixed with boracic acid, which renders it unfit for analytical purposes. Such an admixture can be detected if it be mixed with bisulphate of potassa, and exposed upon platinum wire to the interior or blue flame. It is soon fused, the boracic acid is reduced and evaporated, and by passing through the external flame it is reoxidized, and colors the flame green. We use fluorspar mixed with bisulphate of potassa as a test for lithia and boracic acid in complicated compounds.

15. Oxalate of Nickel (NiO, [=]O).—It is prepared by dissolving the pure oxide of nickel in diluted hydrochloric acid. Evaporate to dryness, dissolve in water, and precipitate with oxalate of ammonia. The precipitate must be washed with caution upon a filter, and then dried. It is employed in blowpipe analysis to detect salts of potassa in the presence of sodium and lithium.

16. Oxide of Copper (CuO).—Pure metallic copper is dissolved in nitric acid. The solution is evaporated in a porcelain dish to dryness, and gradually heated over a spirit-lamp, until the blue color of the salt has disappeared and the mass presents a uniform black color. The oxide of copper so prepared must be powdered, and preserved in a vial. It serves to detect, in complicated compounds, minute traces of chlorine.

17. Antimoniate of Potassa (KO, SbO^{6}).—Mix four parts of the bruised metal of antimony, with nine parts of saltpetre. Throw this mixture, in small portions, into a red-hot Hessian crucible, and keep it at a glowing heat for awhile after all the mixture is added. Boil the cooled mass with water, and dry the residue. Take two parts of this, and mix it with one part of dry carbonate of potassa, and expose this to a red heat for about half an hour. Then wash the mass in cold water, and boil the residue in water; filter, evaporate the filtrate to dryness, and then, with a strong heat, render it free of water. Powder it while it is warm, and preserve it in closed vials. It is used for the detection of small quantities of charcoal in compound substances, as it shares its oxygen with the carbonaceous matter, the antimony becomes separated, and carbonate of potassa is produced, which restores red litmus paper to blue, and effervesces with acids.

18. Silver Foil.—A small piece of silver foil is used for the purpose of detecting sulphur and the sulphides of the metals, which impart a dark stain to it. If no silver foil is at hand, strips of filtering paper, impregnated with acetate of lead, will answer in many cases.

19. Nitroprusside of Sodium (Fe^{2}Cy^{5}, NO^{5}, 2Na).—This is a very delicate test for sulphur, and was discovered by Dr. Playfair. This test has lately been examined with considerable ability by Prof. J.W. Bailey, of West Point. If any sulphate or sulphide is heated by the blowpipe upon charcoal with the carbonate of soda, and the fused mass is placed on a watch-glass, with a little water, and a small piece of the nitroprusside of sodium is added, there will be produced a splendid purple color. This color, or reaction, will be produced from any substance containing sulphur, such as the parings of the nails, hair, albumen, etc. In regard to these latter substances, the carbonate of soda should be mixed with a little starch, which will prevent the loss of any of the sulphur by oxidation. Coil a piece of hair around a platinum wire, moisten it, and dip it into a mixture of carbonate of soda, to which a little starch has been added, and then heat it with the blowpipe, when the fused mass will give with the nitroprusside of sodium the characteristic purple reaction, indicative of the presence of sulphur. With the proper delicacy of manipulation, a piece of hair, half an inch in length, will give distinct indications of sulphur.

Preparation.—The nitroprussides of sodium and potassium (for either salt will give the above reactions), are prepared as follows: One atom (422 grains) of pulverized ferrocyanide of potassium is mixed with five atoms of commercial nitric acid, diluted with an equal quantity of water. One-fifth of this quantity (one atom) of the acid is sufficient to transfer the ferrocyanide into nitroprusside; but the use of a larger quantity is found to give the best results. The acid is poured all at once upon the ferrocyanide, the cold produced by the mixing being sufficient to moderate the action. The mixture first assumes a milky appearance, but after a little while, the salt dissolves, forming a coffee-colored solution, and gases are disengaged in abundance. When the salt is completely dissolved, the solution is found to contain ferrocyanide (red prussiate) of potassium, mixed with nitroprusside and nitrate of the same base. It is then immediately decanted into a large flask, and heated over the water-bath. It continues to evolve gas, and after awhile, no longer yields a dark blue precipitate with ferrous salts, but a dark green or slate-colored precipitate. It is then removed from the fire, and left to crystallize, whereupon it yields a large quantity of crystals of nitre, and more or less oxamide. The strongly-colored mother liquid is then neutralized with carbonate of potash or soda, according to the salt to be prepared, and the solution is boiled, whereupon it generally deposits a green or brown precipitate, which must be separated by filtration. The liquid then contains nothing but nitroprusside and nitrate of potash or soda. The nitrates being the least soluble, are first crystallized, and the remaining liquid, on farther evaporation, yields crystals of the nitroprusside. The sodium salt crystallizes most easily.—(PLAYFAIR.)

As some substances, particularly in complicated compounds, are not detected with sufficient nicety in the dry way of analysis, it will often be necessary to resort to the wet way. It is therefore necessary to have prepared the reagents required for such testing, as every person, before he can become an expert blowpipe analyst, must be acquainted with the characteristic tests as applied in the wet way.

* * * * *

Part II.


Qualitative analysis refers to those examinations which relate simply to the presence or the absence of certain substances, irrespective of their quantities. But before we take cognizance of special examinations, it would facilitate the progress of the student to pass through a course of Initiatory Exercises. These at once lead into the special analysis of all those substances susceptible of examination by the blowpipe. The Initiatory Analysis is best studied by adopting the following arrangement:


The glass of which the bulb is made should be entirely free from lead, otherwise fictitious results will ensue. If the bulb be of flint glass, then by heating it, there is a slightly iridescent film caused upon the surface of the glass, which may easily be mistaken for arsenic. Besides, this kind of glass is easily fusible in the oxidating flame of the blowpipe, while, in the reducing flame, its ready decomposition would preclude its use entirely. The tube should be composed of the potash or hard Bohemian glass, should be perfectly white, and very thin, or the heat will crack it.

The tube should be perfectly clean, which can be easily attained by wrapping a clean cotton rag around a small stick, and inserting it in the tube. Before using the tube, see also that it is perfectly dry.

The quantity of the substance put into the tube for examination should be small. From one to three grains is quite sufficient, as a general rule, but circumstances vary the quantity. The sides of the tube should not catch any of the substance as it is being placed at the bottom of the tube, or into the bulb. If any of the powder, however, should adhere, it should be pushed down with a roll of clean paper, or the clean cotton rag referred to above.

In submitting the tube to the flame, it should be heated at first very gently, the heat being increased until the glass begins to soften, when the observations of what is ensuing within it may be made.

If the substance be of an organic nature, a peculiar empyreumatic odor will be given off. If the substance chars, then it may be inferred that it is of an organic nature. The matters which are given off and cause the empyreumatic odor, are a peculiar oil, ammonia, carbonic acid, acetic acid, water, cyanogen, and frequently other compounds. If a piece of paper is heated in the bulb, a dark colored oil condenses upon the sides of the tube, which has a strong empyreumatic odor. A piece of litmus paper indicates that this oil is acid, as it is quickly changed to red by contact with it. A black residue is now left in the tube, and upon examination we will find that it is charcoal. If, instead of the paper, a piece of animal substance is placed in the bulb, the reddened litmus paper will be converted into its original blue color, while charcoal will be left at the bottom of the tube.

A changing of the substance, however, to a dark color, should not be accepted as an invariable indication of charcoal, as some inorganic bodies thus change color, but the dark substance will not be likely to be mistaken for charcoal. By igniting the suspected substance with nitrate of potassa, it can quickly be ascertained whether it is organic or not, for if the latter, the vivid deflagration will indicate it.

If the substance contains water, it will condense upon the cold portion of the tube, and may be there examined as to whether it is acid or alkaline. If the former, the matter under examination is, perhaps, vegetable; if the latter, it is of an animal nature. The water may be that fluid absorbed, or it may form a portion of its constitution,

If the substance contain sulphur, the sublimate upon the cold part of the tube may be recognized by its characteristic appearance, especially if the substance should be a sulphide of tin, copper, antimony, or iron. The hyposulphites, and several other sulphides, also give off sulphur when heated. The volatile metals, mercury and arsenic, will, however, sublime without undergoing decomposition. As the sulphide of arsenic may be mistaken, from its color and appearance, for sulphur, it must be examined especially for the purpose of determining that point.

Selenium will likewise sublime by heat as does sulphur. This is the case if selenides are present. Selenium gives off the smell of decayed horse-radish.

When the persalts are heated they are reduced to protosalts, with the elimination of a part of their acid. This will be indicated by the blue litmus paper.

If some of the neutral salts containing a volatile acid be present, they will become decomposed. For instance, the red nitrous acid water of the nitrates will indicate the decomposition of the salt, especially if it be the nitrate of a metallic oxide.

If there is an odor of sulphur, then it is quite probable, if no free sulphur be present, that a hyposulphite is decomposed.

If an oxalate be present, it is decomposed with the evolution of carbonic oxide, which may be inflamed at the mouth of the tube; but there are oxalates that give off carbonic acid gas, which, of course, will not burn. A cyanide will become decomposed and eliminate nitrogen gas, while the residue is charred. Some cyanides are, however, not thus decomposed, as the dry cyanides of the earths and alkalies.

There are several oxides of metals which will sublime, and may be thus examined in the tube. Arsenious acid sublimes with great ease in minute octohedral crystals. The oxides of tellurium and antimony will sublime, the latter in minute glittering needles.

There are several metals which will sublime, and may be examined in the cold portion of the tube. Mercury condenses upon the tube in minute globules. These often do not present the metallic appearance until they are disturbed with a glass rod, when they attract each other, and adhere as small globules. Place in the tube about a grain of red precipitate of the drug stores and apply heat, when the oxide will become decomposed, its oxygen will escape while the vaporized mercury will condense upon the cold portion of the tube, and may there be examined with a magnifying glass.

Arsenic, when vaporized, may be known by its peculiar alliaceous odor. Arsenic is vaporized from its metallic state, and likewise from its alloys. Several compounds which contain arsenic will also sublime, such as the arsenical cobalt. Place in the bulb a small piece of arsenical cobalt or "fly-stone," and apply heat. The sulphide of arsenic will first rise, but soon the arsenic will adhere to the sides of the tube.

The metals tellurium and cadmium are susceptible of solution, but the heat required is a high one. This is best done upon charcoal.

The perchloride of mercury sublimes undecomposed in the bulb, previously undergoing fusion.

The protochloride of mercury likewise sublimes, but it does not undergo fusion first, as is the case with the corrosive sublimate.

The ammoniacal salts all are susceptible of sublimation, which they do without leaving a residue. There are, however, several which contain fixed acids, which latter are left in the bulb. This is particularly the case with the phosphates and borates. A piece of red litmus paper will readily detect the escaping ammonia, while its odor will indicate its presence with great certainty. The halogen compounds of mercury, we should have mentioned, also sublime, the red iodide giving a yellow sublimate.

The bulb is also a convenient little instrument for the purpose of heating those substances which phosphoresce, and likewise those salts that decrepitate.

Should the above reactions not be readily discerned, it should not be considered as an indication that the substances are not present, for they are frequently expelled in such combinations that the above reactions will not take place. This is often the case with sulphur, selenium, arsenic, and tellurium. It frequently happens, likewise, that these substances are in such combinations that heat alone will not sublime them; or else two or more of them may arise together, and thus complicate the sublimate, so that the eye cannot readily detect either substance. Sometimes sulphur and arsenic will coat the tube with a metal-like appearance, which is deceptive. This coating presents a metallic lustre at its lower portion, but changing, as it progresses upward, to a dark brown, light brown, orange or yellow; this sublimate being due to combinations of arsenic and sulphur, which compounds are volatilized at a lower temperature than metallic arsenic.

If certain reagents are mixed with many substances, changes are effected which would not ensue with heat alone. Formiate of soda possesses the property of readily reducing metallic oxides. When this salt is heated, it gives off a quantity of carbonic oxide gas. This gas, when in the presence of a metallic oxide, easily reduces the metal, by withdrawing its oxygen from it, and being changed into carbonic oxide. If a little fly-stone is mixed with some formiate of soda, and heated in the bulb, the arsenic is reduced, volatilized, and condenses in the cool portion of the tube. By this method, the smallest portion of a grain of the arsenical compound may be thus examined with the greatest readiness. If the residue is now washed, by which the soda is got rid of, the metallic arsenic may be obtained in small spangles. If the compound examined be the sulphide of antimony, the one-thousandth part can be readily detected, and hence this method is admirably adapted to the examination of medicinal antimonial compounds. The arsenites of silver and copper are reduced by the formiate of soda to their metals, mixed with metallic arsenic. The mercurial salts are all reduced with the metal plainly visible as a bright silvery ring on the cool portion of the tube. The chloride and nitrate of silver are completely reduced, and may be obtained after working out the soda, as bright metallic spangles. The salts of antimony and zinc are thus reduced; also the sulphate of cadmium. The sublimate of the latter, although in appearance not unlike that of arsenic, can easily be distinguished by its brighter color. It is, in fact, the rich yellow of this sublimate which has led artists to adopt it as one of their most valued pigments.


The substance to be operated upon should be placed in the tube, about half an inch from the end, and the flame applied at first very cautiously, increasing gradually to the required temperature. The tube, in all these roasting operations, as they are termed, should be held in an inclined position. The nearer perpendicular the tube is held, the stronger is the draught of air that passes through it. If but little heat is required in the open tube operation, the spirit-lamp is the best method of applying the heat. But if a greater temperature is required, then recourse must be had to the blowpipe. Upon the angle of inclination of the tube depends the amount of air that passes through it, and therefore, the rapidity of the draught may be easily regulated at the will of the operator. The inclination of the tube may, as a general rule, be about the angle represented in Fig. 14.

The length of the tube must be about six inches, so that the portion upon which the substance rested in a previous examination may be cut off. The portion of the tube left will answer for several similar operations.

When the substance is under examination, we should devote our attention to the nature of the sublimates, and to that of the odors of the gases. If sulphur be in the substance experimented upon, the characteristic odor of sulphurous acid gas will readily indicate the sulphur. If metallic sulphides, for instance, are experimented upon, the sulphurous acid gas eliminated will readily reveal their presence. As it is a property of this gas to bleach, a piece of Brazil-wood test paper should be held in the mouth of the tube, when its loss of color will indicate the presence of the sulphurous acid. It often happens, too, that a slight deposition of sulphur will be observed upon the cool portion of the tube. This is particularly the case with those sulphides, which yield sublimates of sulphur when heated in the bulb.

Selenium undergoes but slight oxidation, but it becomes readily volatilized, and may be observed on the cool portion of the tube. At the same time the nose, if applied close to the end of the tube, will detect the characteristic odor of rotten horse-radish. Arsenic also gives its peculiar alliaceous odor, which is so characteristic that it can be easily detected. A few of the arsenides produce this odor. The sublimates should be carefully observed, as they indicate often with great certainty the presence of certain substances; for instance, that of arsenic. The sublimate, in this case, presents itself as the arsenious acid, or the metallic arsenic itself. If it be the former, it may be discerned by aid of the magnifying glass as beautiful glittering octohedral crystals. If the latter, the metallic lustre will reveal it.

But it will be observed that while some of the arsenides are sublimed at a comparatively low temperature, others require a very high one.

Antimony gives a white sublimate when its salts are roasted, as the sulphide, or the antimonides themselves, or the oxide of this metal. This white sublimate is not antimonious acid, but there is mixed with it the oxide of antimony with which the acid is sublimed. As is the case with arsenious acid, the antimonious acid may, by dexterous heating, be driven from one portion of the tube to another.

Tellurium, or its acid and oxide, may be got as a sublimate in the tube. The tellurious acid, unlike the arsenious and antimonious acids, cannot be driven from one portion of the tube to another, but, on the contrary, it fuses into small clear globules, visible to the naked eye sometimes, but quite so with the aid of the magnifying glass.

Lead, or its chloride, sublimes like tellurium, and, like that substance, fuses into globules or drops.

Bismuth, or its sulphide, sublimes into an orange or brownish globules, when it is melted, as directed above, for tellurium. The color of the bismuth and lead oxides are somewhat similar, although that of the latter is paler.

If any mineral containing fluorine, is fused, first with the microcosmic salt bead, then put into the tube, and the flame of the blowpipe be directed into the tube upon the bead, hydrofluoric acid is disengaged and attacks the inside of the tube. The fluoride of calcium, or fluorspar, may be used for this experiment.

During the roasting, a brisk current of air should be allowed to pass through the tube, whereby unoxidized matter may be prevented from volatilization, and the clogging up of the substance under examination be prevented.


In making examinations upon charcoal, it is quite necessary that the student should make himself familiar with the different and characteristic appearances of the deposits upon the charcoal. In this case I have found the advice given by Dr. Sherer to be the best; that is, to begin with the examination of the pure materials first, until the eye becomes familiarized with the appearances of their incrustations upon charcoal.

The greater part of the metals fuse when submitted to the heat of the blowpipe, and if exposed to the outer flame, they oxidize. These metals, termed the noble metals, do not oxidize, but they fuse. The metals platinum, iridium, rhodium, osmium and palladium do not fuse. The metal osmium, if exposed to the flame of oxidation, fuses and is finally dissipated as osmic acid. In the latter flame, the salts of the noble metals are reduced to the metallic state, and the charcoal is covered with the bright metal.

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