A laboratory is a specialized place for conducting experiments, running tests, and analyzing their performance. It is characterized by controlled uniformity of conditions, such as precise humidity, constant temperature, and high cleanliness.
A lab may use multiple instruments and procedures to study objects or phenomena in a particular field. For example, most chemistry and biology labs contain pipettes — a commonly used tool for transporting a measured volume of liquid. These labs often use computer-controlled automated analysis systems to precisely sample, calculate, and display outcomes.
Every lab is built differently based on the purpose of the study. A metallurgy lab, for instance, could have equipment for casting or refining materials or testing the strength of materials, while a physics lab might contain a vacuum chamber or particle accelerator.
Scientific laboratories have become common these days. They can be found as learning spaces or research rooms in schools and colleges, corporates, government, military facilities, and even aboard space stations.
In order to explain them in detail, we have listed different types of laboratories suited for specific research and experiments.
Table of Contents
9. Language Lab
Language lab at Huaihua College West Campus
The language lab is designed to help students acquire foreign language skills in an easy and interactive way. Students get access to audio-visual materials, while teachers can listen to and manage what individual students hear. The audio is usually delivered via headsets and video via a computer monitor.
This type of lab was popular in the United States in the 20th century. During World War II, soldiers used to learn foreign languages to communicate with others.
However, a lot has changed since then. Today’s learning methods are combined with technology, giving people more opportunities and chances to learn foreign languages in less time.
New labs utilize language learning software programs that integrate text, image, audio, and video. These programs allow students to record their own voice, playback recordings, interact with other learners and teachers, and store results. Plus, teachers can alter materials and track students’ progress through an intuitive dashboard.
Advanced programs include oral presentations, structured and instructed group discussions, situational conversations, and much more. They also facilitate the personalization of the processes of teaching and learning.
The purpose is to motivate learners to actively participate in valuable exercises and get more practice than otherwise possible in a conventional classroom environment. All in all, language labs make it easier to learn foreign languages through complete linguistic immersion.
Did you know the first language laboratory was opened at the University of Grenoble in 1908?
Darkrooms are used to process light-sensitive photographic elements, such as photographic paper and film. They contain various instruments, the most common being —
- An enlarger that prints the image onto photographic paper
- Focus finders that ensure prints are sharp
- Timers that control the exposure length
- Multi-grade filters for tunning contrast
- Chemicals in shallow trays for developing prints
- Water in a rinsing tank to remove traces of chemicals
Other instruments include tweezers, tongs, squeegees, and gloves to protect and handle prints carefully.
Another commonly used equipment is a safelight. It illuminates the work area while developing black-and-white images. Different sensitive printing materials require different safelights. For example, most black-and-white photographic papers are processed under a red- or amber-colored light because they are sensitive to green and blue light. Orthochromatic papers, on the other hand, are used only with a deep red safelight.
In addition, darkrooms are light- and temperature-controlled. It is necessary to block all light rays, including the ones leaking from luminous surfaces, such as indicator bulbs. And since higher temperatures can also interface with print developing processes, the room temperature is usually kept at 22 °C or below. As for cleanliness, a solution of one percent potassium hydroxide is used to remove emulsion spills.
Darkrooms have become less common over the past two decades, mainly because of advances in instant photography technology and digital photography. Still, you may find them in several schools, universities, and studios of professional photographers.
Besides photography, darkrooms are also used for the non-destructive evaluation of a wide range of materials. Several analysis techniques, such as magnetic particle inspection, require a darkroom to analyze the properties and defects in surfaces of ferromagnetic materials.
Turbulent and laminar flow cleanroom
As the name suggests, cleanrooms are isolated spaces that maintain a significantly low concentration of airborne particulates. They keep airborne organisms, vaporized particles, dust, and other micro-sized particles away from materials and techniques being processed/studied inside the room.
These rooms are important for various types of scientific studies and industrial manufacturing that involve nanoscale processes such as semiconductor device fabrication. They are also a necessity in life sciences, the battery industry, and other fields that are sensitive to external contamination.
Cleanrooms are classified by the British Standards (BS) or International Standards Organisation (ISO) based on the level of contamination. The ISO Class, in particular, ranges between 1 and 9. The lower the number, the lower the concentration of the size of particles, and thus cleaner the room.
To put this into perspective, a typical external environment consists of 35,000,000 particles per cubic meter, each particle being 0.5 μm or bigger in diameter. This falls under the lowest level of cleanroom standard, i.e., ISO Class 9.
The ISO Class 5 contains less than 3,520 particles per cubic meter, while the Class 1 certified cleanroom permits only 12 particles per cubic meter (and these particles should not be greater than 0.3 μm in diameter).
Level 1 facilities are extremely rare. Most level semiconductor industries work in Class 7 and 6 certified cleanrooms.
Did you know the modern cleanroom was innovated by Willis Whitfield in the 1960s?
Within a few years of inventing cleanrooms with constant, highly filtered air flow to push out impurities in the air, he had generated over $50 billion in global sales ($470 billion as of today).
6. Industrial Lab
Water treatment facility of De Nora laboratories
Examples: Emirates industrial laboratory; Secat metallurgical research laboratory
Industrial labs are used to study various fields and markets, ranging from water treatment and material sciences to semiconductor and automotive industries.
These labs are developed for many different purposes. For instance, some industrial labs focus on aiding and facilitating R&D in semiconductor technology, some are built for studying water treatment and purification processes, and some might be responsible for testing automotive components.
It employs a range of professionals, from chemists and physicists to engineers and designers. Together, they conduct large-scale experiments to develop prototypes or industrial-scale production processes for new products, such as display materials for thin panel displays, materials for storing energy, or other new functional materials.
The continuous effort of numerous industrial labs across the world has led to the successful synthesis of multiple new porous materials, including structural types of zeotypes and zeolites, mesoporous molecular sieves, and macroporous or mesoporous composite materials of distinct chemical compositions.
5. Computer Lab
A computer lab contains a cluster of computers that typically are networked and available to a defined community. They are usually provided by academic institutions to students or by public libraries to citizens.
Some labs include additional hardware such as DVD or CD drives, printers, and scanners. People need to follow certain user policies to retain access to computers and other devices installed in the lab. For example, they cannot access adult content or sites that require too much bandwidth.
While most computer laboratories are multipurpose, some are equipped with hardware or software optimized for specific tasks (based on the requirement of the institution managing the lab). These tasks could be anything, from 3D computer-aided design and animation to stock trading and training machine learning models.
Did you know the first computer lab, then known as the mathematical laboratory, was established by the University of Cambridge in 1937? It housed several mechanical computers to provide services to the rest of the University.
4. Public Health Lab
New Jersey public health and environmental laboratory
Example: University of Washington’s Center for Public Health Informatics
Public health labs work at the federal, state, and local levels to closely monitor and identify health threats ranging from malaria and rabies to genetic disorders and radiological contaminants in people.
These labs respond to novel strains of a disease, foodborne outbreaks, chemical spills, natural disasters, and other health emergencies. They may collaborate with other major agencies like the FDA, FBI, Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Department of Homeland Security.
In the United States, public health labs perform 11 key functions
- Detect, prevent and control high-risk disease
- Accumulate and analyze scientific data
- Run reference and specialized tests in microbiology labs
- Analyze potentially threatening environmental samples
- Identify harmful contaminants in food specimens
- Oversee quality assurance and lab improvement programs
- Assist in the development of better health policies
- Provide support to other laboratories in case of health or environmental emergencies
- Develop and implement analytical methodologies and new procedures to improve healthcare communities
- Facilitate workshops and training for staff members in public and private labs
- Build partnerships among state and city entities
Overall, public health laboratories are staffed by highly trained scientists and equipped with sophisticated instrumentation to deliver disease control and prevention services.
Did you know there are more than 264 Reference Laboratories for coordinating and promoting animal disease control? These labs cover over 109 topics or diseases in 37 countries.
3. Molecular/Genomics Lab
Examples: University of Montana’s Genomics Core Laboratory; The Jackson Laboratory
Genomics labs are integrated, high-throughput molecular biology labs that focus on the development and improvement of genetics and genomics technologies. They are equipped with data analysis tools, DNA analyzer, mass spectrometer, focused ultrasonicator, liquid handling robot, vacuum concentrator, and other sophisticated instruments.
These labs utilize multiple technology platforms to develop strategies and procedures that efficiently identify genes or gene products involved in the development of certain diseases. They also focus on the assembly of genes or expression profiles to detect prognostic and diagnostic indicators.
More specifically, genomics labs develop high-throughput DNA sequencing and mapping technologies, such as the paired-end-tag sequencing strategy for RNA-PET/Seq analysis. These technologies address complicated genetic questions between normal and disease states.
In simple terms, the purpose of genomic laboratories is to figure out how genetic makeup affects the course of a disease and how lifestyle, surroundings, and treatments can trigger mutations that change that course.
2. Crime Laboratory
A Forensic Science service building in Wetherby, England | Wikimedia
Examples: Texas Department of Public Safety’s Crime Laboratory; Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory Division
As the name suggests, a crime lab is a facility where detailed examinations are performed on evidence produced by crime or civil infringement. These examinations include the investigation of digital, physical, chemical, or biological evidence, and they are performed by specialists in various fields, including forensic pathology, forensic anthropology, forensic science, and ballistics.
Crime labs are also referred to as forensic labs. While most of them are publicly funded and managed by local, state, or federal government, private labs that specialize in areas — such as DNA fingerprinting and document analysis — have grown significantly over the past decade.
Typically, these labs have two types of employees:
- Field analysts: Examiners who go to crime scenes to gather evidence
- Lab analysts: Scientists or researchers who perform tests on collected data
The lab tests may include chemical identification, object identification, DNA analysis, fingerprint analysis, document analysis, trace analysis of fibers and hair, or explosive investigations.
One of the most advanced forensic labs across the world is at the FBI. Located in Quantico, Virginia, it employs 750+ scientists and analysts, and partners with local and state crime labs throughout the United States to solve criminal cases.
One of its divisions, called the Chem-Bio Sciences Unit, works closely with the military, studying chemical, biological, and nuclear components. It also specializes in the examination of animal, insect, seed, plant, and genetically modified organisms.
Did you know the first crime lab in the US was founded by Los Angeles Police Department in 1923? The second one was established by the Bureau of Investigation in 1926.
1. Medical Laboratory
Medical lab equipment
Examples: LabCorp, Quest Diagnostics, Sanofi Genzyme, Abbott Laboratories
Medical laboratories are healthcare facilities providing a range of lab procedures and data that help physicians carry out the diagnosis, treatment, and management of patients. Also known as clinical labs, they are situated near or within hospital facilities to provide quick and easy access to both physicians and patients.
Unlike research laboratories that focus on basic science, medical labs implement applied science — they use scientific methods and knowledge obtained via conclusions from the methodologies to attain practical goals.
Medical laboratory scientists work to examine numerous biological samples. They collaborate directly with lab technicians and physicians to effectively diagnose and monitor disease processes and the effects of therapy.
These laboratories can be classified as either anatomical pathology labs (that examine organ or tissue samples and fluid samples collected via biopsy or lavage) or clinical pathology labs (that analyze urine, blood, culture products, and other body fluids).
From the business point of view, there are majority two types of labs for processing medical specimens: hospital labs that are linked to the hospital and private labs that receive specimens from general practitioners, clinics, research sites, and insurance companies for analysis.
Overall, medical labs are part of the health technology industry. Corporates exist at different scales, including suppliers of medical instruments and consumable materials, developers and suppliers of diagnostic tests, and clinical laboratory services.
Clinical lab services, in particular, include big multinational companies like Sonic Healthcare and LabCorp. However, about 55% of the revenue in the US is generated by hospital labs.
More To Know
The Earliest Known Lab
As per the current evidence, the earliest known laboratory is the home lab of an ancient Ionian Greek philosopher Pythagoras of Samos. He made numerous scientific and mathematical discoveries, including the Theory of Proportions and the Pythagorean theorem. He created a lab in his home to conduct experiments related to sound tones and string vibration.
How Many Medical Laboratories Are There In The United States?
Over 200,000 clinical labs offer testing services throughout the nation, of which 5% are hospital-based labs, 3% are independent labs, 53% are physician office labs, and the rest (close to 39%) are community clinics, local public health labs, blood banks, nursing facilities, dialysis facilities, and home health agencies.
While hospital-based labs account for only 5% of total medical labs in the United States, they perform 55% of the total lab test volume. In contrast, independent labs perform 32% and physician office labs handle 8% of the total lab test volume.
Clinical Laboratory Tests Market Size
According to the Grand View Research report, the global clinical lab service market size will reach $288.7 billion, growing at a CAGR of 4.7% from 2021 to 2028.
The major factors behind this growth are rising demand for fast and accurate disease diagnosis, advancements in clinical diagnostic procedures, and increasing private investments and research funding to develop cost-efficient lab testing techniques.
Independent clinical labs are expected to be the fastest-growing segment over the forecast period because they can provide diagnostic facilities at the retail level, significantly improving patient outcomes.