Kipp gas generator

Description (Brief)
Before the development of compressed gas canisters, the Kipp apparatus provided an easy on-demand supply for laboratory gases. It could produce any gas resulting from contact between a cold liquid and a solid, including hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen.
The apparatus gets its name from its inventor, Petrus Jacobus Kipp (1808–1864), a Dutch pharmacist turned scientific instrument maker and dealer. In 1844 he published designs for two simple gas generators, which were blown for him by the master German glassblower Heinrich Geissler (1814–1879). The second of the two became the Kipp gas generator. Kipp’s company, Kipp & Zonen (Kipp & Sons) is still in business today, selling solar and scientific instruments.
The apparatus consists of three glass globes. The bottom two globes are fused and the top globe is removable. It includes a long neck that reaches to the bottom globe. The solid for the reaction rests in the middle globe, which also features a stop cock. The liquid for the reaction is poured through the top globe (sometimes through a thistle tube, see object 1991.0691.39) and descends through the neck to the bottom globe. As more liquid is added, it eventually rises to the height of the middle globe, coming into contact with the solid.
The reaction between the liquid and solid gives off gas, which collects in the second globe. Pressure from this gas forces the liquid from the second globe back down into the bottom globe and up through the neck into the top globe, stopping the reaction. When gas is needed, it can be removed by opening the stopcock on the second globe. This reduction in gas pressure allows the liquid to flow back into the second globe and continue the reaction with the solid, producing more gas.
This object was used at the Chemistry department at the University of Pennsylvania. Chemistry has been taught at the University since at least 1769 when doctor and signer of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Rush (1746–1813), became Professor of Chemistry in the Medical School. A Chemistry department independent of the Medical School was established by 1874.
“A Brief History of the Department of Chemistry at Penn.” University of Pennsylvania Department of Chemistry. Accessed March 20, 2015.
“History - Kipp & Zonen.” Accessed March 27, 2015.
Homburg, Ernst. “The Story behind the Name 4: Kipp’s Apparatus.” Royal Society of Chemistry Historical Group Newsletter, 2001.
Sella, Andrea. “Classic Kit: Kipp’s Apparatus.” Chemistry World, November 2007.
Sommer, Richard Ernst Wilhelm. A Textbook of Inorganic Chemistry. H. Hayward, 1906.
Currently not on view
Object Name
gas generator
Physical Description
glass (overall material)
overall: 25 in x 7 1/2 in; 63.5 cm x 19.05 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Science & Scientific Instruments
Science & Mathematics
Science Under Glass
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Chemistry
Science Under Glass
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of University of Pennsylvania Chemistry Lab
Additional Media

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