[ELI5] Why do all chemistry/biology labs have that black stone as the bench top?


[ELI5] Why do all chemistry/biology labs have that black stone as the bench top?

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They’re specially made for labs. They don’t react with most chemicals and are designed to withstand most experiments, spills, or fires.

They’ve been around for a long time, they have a lot of credit to their product.

I believe it’s epoxy granite, or something equivalent. It’s silicon dioxide, or quartz, basically, which is extremely inert. A 100% stone bench top however would be inappropriate due to it’s hardness and how it would risk glassware breaking just from setting it down on the surface. Stone also has a few minor chemical weaknesses; mainly very strong alkalis. Epoxy and most other plastics, are both quite soft and resilient to most alkali. So if you grind the stone to dust, and then bind it together with a polymer, you get a material that is very strong, smooth, has high damping which is gentle on glassware, and is resistant to almost every chemical in existence. Quite ideal for a chemistry lab.

Originally the lab tables were made from thick slabs of slate rock. Before the invention of tough synthetic surfaces slate was one of the cheapest flat stone surfaces you could buy. Slate floors and counters weren’t uncommon. Labs need a lot of counter space. So using slate was the best option as something like granite would’ve been extremely expensive.

Slate was also non porous, heat resistant, and generally non reactive with most chemicals making it great for laboratory applications as well as flooring and kitchen counters.

More modern countertops use synthetic materials to achieve the same goals. Though they usually keep the black look because that’s what people expect.

They may have changed now, but Soapstone used to used a lot. It is heat resistant and acid proof. It is also nonporous so it won’t stain. We actually have it in our kitchen for our counter tops.

I can bet my ass that they are black to hide all the stains.

We borrowed a white topped table from the biology lab once, and it turned into a pride flag in under a week.

The black stone top has saved lazy lab assistants countless man-hours of cleaning stains.