Researchers will go to extremes in order to get results. They will get out of their comfort zones, or out of our planet in the name of science. The laboratories discussed below are some where scientists have to work in the most difficult conditions, on the planet and sometimes off it, on mountaintops, at the poles or under water.Their work helps us better understand our universe and get valuable information on the weather, the human body, climate change and many other things.
1. IceCube Neutrino Observatory, Antarctica
It’s the coldest physics laboratory in the world. Equipment used to detect very high energy neutrinos (these are subatomic particles that are known to originate from some violent astronomical phenomena e.g., exploding stars) are not telescopes in space. In fact, they an array of sensors located deep below the surface of the earth. In the frozen wastes of the Antarctica, you will find the IceCube Neutrino Observatory located under a thick ice layer. The neutrinos sometimes react with molecules in the water to produce Cherenkov radiation that is picked up by PMTs (the photomultiplier tubes).
Creation of IceCube involved the positioning of Digital Optical Modules (DOMs), which are spherical sensors that contain PMTs, at depths of between 1450 and 2,450 meters (4747 and 8038 feet). The Digital Optical Modules range over 1 cubic kilometer of ice which makes them part of the coldest physical laboratory and the largest neutrino observatory in the world. Raw data they collect at the observatory is approximately one terabyte daily which is around 1000 gigabytes, transmitted for analysis.(source)
2. Long Island’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, New York, USA
It’s the hottest temperature producing laboratory in the world. The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) found at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, announced in February 2012, the production of temperature of around 4 trillion degrees Celsius (7.2 trillion degrees Fahrenheit). This is the hottest temperature man has ever created! It’s 250,000 times greater than the heat found at the earth’s center. This was achieved by the collision of gold ions at close to the speed of light, and quark-gluon plasma- which is a soup of elementary particles that existed in nature a fraction of a second after the Big Bang- was created.
It’s the second most powerful heavy ion collider when compared to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. The RHIC facility is also the only one where polarized protons are collided so as to study how protons obtain their spin. It’s the world record holder for the highest energy polarized protons to ever be seen and in addition, it produces record- breaking temperatures.(source)
3. Sagarmatha National Park’s Pyramid Laboratory in Nepal
It’s the highest terrestrial laboratory in the world. In the Himalayas, at the Sagarmatha National Park in Nepal, there stands a pyramid shaped laboratory that is three storeys high. The laboratory and observatory is made out of steel, glass and aluminum. It’s located at the base of Mount Everest at 16,568 feet or 5,050 meters above sea level. The research done here is on subjects like human physiology, geology, the environment and climate.
The laboratory was created by the Ev-K2-CNR committee, which is dedicated to the promotion of technical and scientific altitude research. It has three levels: laboratories and warehouses are on the first two levels while the third level is devoted to telecommunications and data processing. The pyramid is a landmark to scientists and also to locals who use its telecom facilities sometimes.(source)
4. The NOAA Aquarius Reef Base, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in Florida, USA.
It’s the deepest underwater laboratory in the world and one of its kind. This is because other undersea laboratories like the Conshelf III and a Conshelf II cabin that were operational during the 1960s, went beneath the waves. The Aquarius lab is around 50 to 60 ft (which is about 15 to 18 meters) below the surface of the water in a marine sanctuary at Florida Keys. It has been used to study the ecology of the reef by researchers for the last two decades. Facilities in the laboratory include six bunks that have a bathroom plus windows that are onto the watery world outside.
Oceanographer Fabien Cousteau who is the grandson of the legendary explorer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, spent 31 days at the Aquarius laboratory with five teammates in June 2014. The team studied ocean acidification effects, climate change, predatory-prey relations, pollution, and other topics.(source)
5. CERN, Geneva Switzerland and France Border
It’s the largest physics laboratory in the world. The European Organization For Nuclear Research (CERN) is located just close to Geneva and covers more than 250 acres (100 hectares) of Switzerland and more than 1,125 acres (450 hectares) of France and is still growing. The Large Hadron Collider is housed in a 492 feet (150 meters) tunnel that’s below ground and that stretches for 27 kilometers (17 meters). And that’s not all, plans are underway to build another tunnel three times this size! Research done at the facility is aimed at uncovering the nature of the universe, so the massive scale is expected.
The intention of building CERN was to support collaboration between scientists from different nations. This it has succeeded in doing since currently, the facility is used by over 10,000 engineers and scientists from across 113 different countries. There are nearly 1,500 employees working part-time and 2,400 that work full time. Since its founding in 1954, discoveries that are important and Nobel-winning have been made at the facility including technological developments that include the World Wide Web.(source)
6. SNOLAB, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
It’s the deepest underground laboratory in the world. The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNOLAB) found in Ontario, is used for observing deep space phenomenon found far below the earth’s surface, just like the IceCube. The facility can be found inside a nickel mine which is 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) deep. The laboratory covers 5,000 square meters (16,404 square feet) of space. Above ground, it boasts a support building that covers 3,100 square meters which is around 10,170 square foot.
SNOLAB research is mainly focused on astroparticle physics which includes; cosmic dark matter, supernova nutritional searches and low-energy solar neutrinos. Scientists from other fields like seismology and geophysics have also expressed interests in working at this facility and this could help underground biology researchers.(source)
7. International Space Station, outer Space
It’s the highest altitude laboratory in the world. The International Space Station (ISS) is the most extreme laboratory in terms of speed, inhospitable environments and altitude. Orbiting the earth at altitudes that range from 205 to 270 miles (which is around 330 to 435 kilometers) and averaging a speed of 27,724 km/hr (17,227 mph), the incredible space station is 108.5 meters (356 feet) wide and 72.8 meters(239 feet) long.
A variety of experiments are carried out in this facility including human biology, physics, meteorology and astronomy. The almost weightless environment of the facility (which is as a result of its constant freefall state and not outer space’s zero gravity), makes it a unique research setting. Since November 2000, the facility has been visited by astronauts from over 15 different countries. The ISS is expected to be operational until 2020 but could remain in service until as late as 2028.(source)