The term “science lab” instantly conjures up images of bubbling beakers, Bunsen burners and men in white suits, but not all science labs are as conventional as the ones you see on TV or used to use at school.
In fact, some Science labs are in some of the weirdest and coolest (or indeed coldest) places you could wish to imagine.
View our collection of 10 of the most incredible and mind-blowing science labs from around the world (and beyond).
The Pyramid Laboratory, Himalayan Mountains, Nepal
If you think your commute to work down the M1 is a pain in the backside, spare a thought for those workers at the Pyramid Laboratory in the Sagarmatha National Park, in the Nepalese Himalayan mountains!
Located more than 5000 metres above sea level, this beautifully designed research centre monitors high altitude ecosystems and has been fully operational since 1990. Since then, the lab has grown to become a fundamental scientific outpost for researchers, and is a point of pride for the Napali government. We can see why!
Mount Washington Observatory, New Hampshire, US
Providing the latest weather information to the masses is of such importance, that scientists have been occupying the remote Mount Washington Observatory, which is 2000 metres above sea level and famous for its extreme weather, since 1932.
Situated on the top of a New Hampshire mountain, the lab is famous for being a spot which experiences “bitter cold, dense fog, heavy snow and record wind”. In fact winds regularly reach 100mph up there, and the fasted wind ever recorded at the centre was 231mph in April 1934!
Not only do the Scientists at the Mount Washington laboratory monitor basic weather systems, they also have the broader goal of performing research into our changing climate.
Aquarius Reef Base, Florida, US
Not to be confused on first glance for a decaying ancient shipwreck, Florida International University’s Aquarius Reef Base is a laboratory that sits at the bottom of the ocean in the bay of Florida Keys.
6 Researchers at a time can spend a maximum of 10 days in the submerged research centre, which comprises 6 bunk beds, one shower, one toilet, and includes minor luxuries such as a microwave and hot running water.
Often damaged, but never completely destroyed, by hurricane activity, the original purpose of the lab was to discover links for the cause and spread of black-band disease which damages precious coral reefs by disintegration.
Svartisen Glacier Laboratory, Norway
We’ve probably all experienced work environments which are either too hot or too cold and had a good moan with our colleagues about it. But, during these times at least we had the luxury of temperature control to ease our discomfort! For the scientists who work 200 metres below nothing but ice in the Svartisen Glacier Laboratory in Norway, they just have one temperature option: freezing cold.
This remote lab focuses on glacier movements, by noting their shift patterns and detecting sea level changes once these huge slabs of ice melt in the warmer months, as well as examining how glaciers on-the-move send out seismic signals.
Reaching this glacier-hidden lab isn’t easy. First a flight to a remote Norwegian town is required, followed by a long drive, after which a ferry must be taken to the entrance of the tunnel leading to the lab itself. Upon reaching the entrance, it’ll take scientists at least an hour’s walk to the centre, but in snowy conditions that walk can take up to five times as long!
The International Space Station
We’ve saved perhaps the most mind-blowing Science laboratory in the world as our last example. The International Space Station is a victory for mankind… a conquering of man over nature, if you will.
Perpetually orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 250 miles (about the distance from Manchester to Dundee), the International Space Station took 13 years of back-and-forth space shuttle trips to build, with astronauts given the daunting task of putting the station together piece by piece, whilst carrying out space walks situated hundreds of miles above our planet.
Lots of different scientific experiments take place in the station, including examining the effects of microgravity on the human body and checking the environment’s radiation levels among many other things.
Another added benefit of having a lab so high is the resulting images that can be taken, allowing us to view our world in a way never before thought possible, such as the above view of the Northern Lights appearing to hover above a lit up United Kingdom and Ireland.
The Large Hadron Collider (CERN), Switzerland
Possibly the most famous, most talked about, and most significant science laboratory in recent times, the Large Hadron Collider was built in collaboration with more than 10,000 scientists from more than 100 countries, and it lies in a 27km long ringed-tunnel which lies beneath the Franco-Swiss border.
The project had been in the making for over 30 years, with one of the main aims to discover the famed Higgs-Boson particle, which it did successfully in 2013, changing and advancing human understanding of the natural laws of physics.
However, this all came at a cost. Quite a monumental cost! Initial budget estimates have been £3.85 billion in total. Yes, you read that correctly, three-point-eight-five-billion pounds! That’s not to mention also the £34 million that the UK Government ploughs into the project annually for running costs.
Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory, Shanghai, China
The $176 million Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory in China’s Shanghai metropolis, was commissioned in 2007 and is by far the country’s biggest single investment into research facility.
Sandia Laboratory, Albuquerque, New Mexico, US
Costing just over $80 million to build, the awesome “Z Machine” in the Sandia Laboratory, New Mexico, justifies it’s huge price tag by being the world’s most powerful electrical device.
The machine, known simply as “Z” by those in-the-know, runs extremely high voltages through something called Tungsten wires, creating energy bursts hotter than the centre of the sun, with more than three times as much pressure as the Earth’s core and which can launch material faster than the speed of sound.
Scientists at the lab hope one day to use this impressive technology to create clean, safe and renewable energy resources.
More photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sandialabs
Fermilab, Batavia, Illinois, US
The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, but more commonly known as Fermilab, used to be the world’s second largest particle collider behind CERN, and is now considered one of the world’s most important Laboratories for studies on particle physics.
First founded in 1967, the centre covers an area of 27.5km² and cost $243 million to build.
IceCube Neutrino Observatory, South Pole, Antarctica
Since its completion in December 2010, the aptly named IceCube Neutrino Observatory has detected 28 neutrinos that are likely to have originated outside of our solar system.
This kind of information plays a great role in helping human’s understanding of some of the most deep and meaningful questions we have about the Universe, and about the laws of physics in general.
Searching for answers to these profound questions comes at a cost, however, and the bill for the production of the IceCube laboratory came in at over $200 million.
National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Tallahassee, Florida, US
When a laboratory is home to the world’s strongest magnet, known as the 45 Tesla Hybrid (which is equivalent of around 45,000 fridge magnets) its not surprising that it wasn’t cheap to build.
$14.4 million was required for the set up of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, part of Florida State University, which researches magnetic fields for research in chemistry, bioengineering, biology, physics and geochemistry.
There are only 9 of these kinds of high powered magnets throughout the world and only one is the US, meaning the demand among scientists to use the equipment is extremely high.