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Biology Lab Equipment List To Open Your New Lab

Biology labs investigate everything biological, while medical labs study anything that may affect medical practice. While there are some types of equipment that you’d find in both lab environments, if you’re building a biology lab, you’ll likely have a specific set of tools and instruments you’ll need to perform research.

In a biology laboratory, you’ll also need several other smaller items such as lab safety equipment (goggles, lab coats/aprons, etc.), test tubes and tube rack, tweezers, beakers, bunsen burners, Erlenmeyer flasks, pipettes, stirrers, Petri dishes, microscope slides, and slide covers. While those are important to your lab’s overall function, this article focuses on the major biology lab instruments and equipment you’ll need. However, it’s important to note that this is not an exhaustive list.

Biology Lab Equipment and Instruments List

Ultra-Low Temperature Freezer

What it Does

An ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezer stores biological material such as bacteria, viruses, and cells. It works like a traditional refrigerator but operates at a much lower temperature – from -45 to -150 degrees celsius, depending on their intended purpose.

How to Use it in a Biology Lab

Use the ULT freezer to store biological material until it is ready for testing. Depending on the type – upright, chest, table-top, or under-counter – and the max temperature, only certain samples may be stored.

Popular Brands/Manufacturers

  • Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • Panasonic Healthcare (PHCbi)
  • VWR
  • Eppendorf

CO2 Incubator

What it Does

A CO2 incubator is a sealed, climate-controlled box used in life science labs to grow cell cultures by managing carbon dioxide and oxygen levels within the chamber. They maintain the same conditions as the sample’s natural environment for testing and research purposes. For example, if studying a human cell, the incubator would replicate the conditions inside a human body.

How to Use it in a Biology Lab

Prepare the sample in a petri dish, and place it in the incubator to allow a culture to grow. These cultured cells are often used in medical applications or for the production of biopharmaceuticals.

Popular Brands/Manufacturers

  • PHCbi
  • Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • BINDER Inc.
  • NuAire
  • Memmert
  • Tritec
  • Eppendorf

Fluorescence Microscope

What it Does

A fluorescence microscope makes it possible to see fluorescent dyes or proteins at the cellular and subcellular levels. These are not the optical microscopes you’d commonly see in a middle school or high school science class. Fluorescence microscopes, on the other hand, use electromagnetic radiation and light absorption principles to observe microscopic objects.

How to Use it in a Biology Lab

To begin, turn on the light source and warm up for as much as 15 minutes to reach constant illumination. Place the sample on the stage and secure it. Then, turn on the white light source on the microscope and adjust as needed.

Popular Brands/Manufacturers

  • Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • Olympus
  • Zeiss
  • Bio-Rad
  • Leica

Analytical Lab Balance

What it Does

An analytical lab balance weighs samples and substances between .01 and 500 milligrams. The measuring pans are generally enclosed inside a glass box to prevent dust from settling in the pan since they can disrupt testing.

How to Use it in a Biology Lab

Never place chemicals directly on the balance pan unless they are at room temperature and unreactive. Instead, place the sample in a container before measuring. Containers, glassware, and pieces of metal can be placed on the pan. Measure it, weighing the container first to adjust for its weight. Return the weights back to zero.

Popular Brands/Manufacturers

  • Mettler Toledo
  • Cole-Parmer
  • Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • Adam Equipment USA
  • Sartorius, Ohaus

Centrifuge

What it Does

A centrifuge spins an object to separate particles from a solution based on density using the sedimentation principle.

How to Use it in a Biology Lab

Place the sample in a centrifuge tube, set the parameters, and run the machine. Centrifuges can be used in many lab settings, but are often used to separate whole blood components.

Popular Brands/Manufacturers

  • Cole-Parmer
  • Eppendorf
  • Labnet
  • Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • L-K Industries
  • Beckman-Coulter

Microplate Reader

What it Does

Microplate readers are used for analyzing specific phenomena in microtiter plates. This allows microbiologists to test multiple samples at once. These readers use absorbance, fluorescence and/or luminescence-based techniques to look at samples.

How to Use it in a Biology Lab

Load the sample into the plate, set it into the microplate reader, and set the appropriate test conditions. Results are analyzed via computer.

Popular Brands/Manufacturers

  • Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • Tecan
  • PerkinElmer
  • Molecular Devices

Flow Cytometer

What it Does

A flow cytometer detects and measures the cell biology of a group of particles or cell populations and is used for analyzing cell surface expressions and intracellular molecules. A computer then processes the data collected.

How to Use it in a Biology Lab

The sample for analysis must be suspended in a fluid. The fluid is injected into the flow cytometer where it is focused to move through a laser beam one cell at a time. After processing the sample, use the computer to analyze the results. These machines are often used in cell imaging, cell signaling, immunophenotyping, and more.

Popular Brands/Manufacturers

  • Beckman Coulter
  • Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • Sony Biotechnology
  • BD Biosciences
  • Miltenyi-Biotec
  • Bio-Rad

Next-Generation Sequencer (NGS)

What it Does

NGS sequences DNA and RNA. With rapid technological advancement in the field, an entire human genome can be sequenced within a single day. They play an important role in studying molecular biology.

How to Use it in a Biology Lab

An NGS can be used to sequence an entire genome or look at specific parts of it, isolating certain genes. It is used to study genetic disease, population variations, protein interactions with nucleic acids, and much more.

Popular Brands/Manufacturers

  • Illumina
  • Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • Pacific Biosciences
  • Qiagen
  • Fluidigm

How Much Does it Cost to Open a Biology Lab

Opening a biology lab can cost anywhere from $50K to a few million dollars depending on the type of lab, where it’s located, and the specific instrumentation you’ll need. Fortunately, there are ways you can raise money and keep costs low. 

The majority of your costs will be the lab space and the equipment itself. A lot of this depends on the area you’re operating in and whether you purchase new or used equipment or are willing to lease equipment. You’ll also have to consider staff salary along with any utilities not included in facility rent.

Considerations for Purchasing Biology Equipment

Buying Brand New Equipment

Purchasing equipment new from the manufacturer requires a large upfront payment, but ensures that you have the highest quality equipment on the market. While new equipment has less of a chance of breakdown, future maintenance and repair costs or service contracts will add to these expenses.

Buying Used Biology Lab Equipment

Compared to buying new, used equipment can help you save a significant amount of money. But, you still have to deal with repair and maintenance. If a machine you just bought malfunctions shortly after, you’re stuck spending even more money. For the lab on a budget, it can be a major risk.

Leasing Biology Lab Equipment

Leasing lab equipment is an alternative that prevents you from having to shell out a big upfront sum for all the equipment you need to start your lab. Since maintenance and repair are included in your lease’s cost, it can be far more economical to use this approach. By leasing your equipment, you spread your payments out over time, preserving your budget for other ongoing operational needs. You can choose between leasing new or manufacturer refurbished equipment, the latter of which can help you save even more on costs.