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Which expensive physics lab equipment can students use in a virtual lab?

Ginelle Testa
Teaching with Labster
November 1, 2022

You want the best for your students, but physics lab budgets seem to be getting smaller, and some lab equipment and supply costs are way out of budget. What if you could access state-of-the-art physics equipment for all your students without spending tons of money? Labster’s virtual simulations offer the chance to learn about and play with expensive equipment from the comfort of your classroom or students’ homes. 

Here are 5 pieces of physics lab equipment students can use with Labster that they likely cannot access in the classroom.

Expensive physics lab equipment accessible via virtual labs

1. Optical table

An optical table is used for engineering and physics. It’s a platform used to perform experiments, keeping all optical devices in place. An optical table is flat, rigid, and movement-proof. These can run $10,000 for a complete table (1). 

With Labster’s virtual lab, Light and Polarization, students will use an optical table to learn about the properties of light. 

light and polarization optical table

2. Backscattering Spectrometer

This tool uses an ion scattering technique. Neutrons can be expelled from atoms through a high-energy process to produce a free neutron beam. They cost so much that the price is rarely visible online. We found some that were approximately $200,000! (2)

With Labster’s virtual lab, Quasi-Elastic Neutron Scattering, students can perform quasi-elastic neutron scattering experiments at a research facility while helping a group of scientists in the Arctic.

quasi-electric nuetron scattering

3. Seismograph

This instrument measures and records details of earthquakes. It’s securely mounted to the surface of the earth. Seismometers are the pieces of the instrument used to detect seismic waves and other ground vibrations. Buying a seismograph can easily exceed $100,000 (3)! 

With Labster’s virtual lab, Springs and Masses: Learn how to detect and record earthquakes students will get to assemble their own seismic station and learn how to read a seismogram, the recording output of a seismograph.

springs and masses seismograph

4. Fission reactor

The main job of a reactor is to house and control nuclear fission—a process where atoms split and release energy. There are only 92 in the United States. It’s not even possible to get one! Buying a nuclear power plant would cost billions of dollars (4). 

In Labster’s simulation,Fission: Discover a powerful energy source, students go on a mission to learn about fission and how we harness it as a sustainable energy source. They’ll journey into the heart of a reactor.

nuclear fission virtual lab

5. Wave Blaster 

Okay, this one is admittedly made up by Labster, but wouldn’t it be cool to have a tool that would help students learn about waves, their properties, types, and how they appear in the real world? This tool is priceless since it can’t be purchased! 

In Labster’s simulation, What are waves? Students can make mistakes with no consequences. The virtual lab assistant turns the power of the Wave Blaster up with catastrophic results. The lights and sound in the lab break and need to be fixed. They must get the lab functioning properly again before the next student arrives.

what are waves simulation

Virtual labs as a supplement

Virtual lab simulations aren’t meant to replace an in-person lab completely; they’re meant to supplement what you already have and give students access to a million-dollar lab they wouldn’t otherwise be able to try.

You want to equip your students with the best knowledge and experience they can possibly get and with our catalog of 300 simulations, we can help you do that at a lower price than you would pay to maintain expensive machinery and supplies. 

Get Labster’s educators’ all-access 30-day pass to try these simulations and hundreds more with your students!


  1. https://www.thorlabs.com/newgrouppage9.cfm?objectgroup_id=5930 

  2. https://www.dragonlasers.com/aurora-4000-high-resolution-spectrometer.html 

  3. https://www.earthmagazine.org/article/desktop-seismology-how-maker-inspired-device-changing-seismic-monitoring/#:~:text=Costs%20for%20high%2Dgrade%20seismographs,and%20can%20easily%20exceed%20%24100%2C000

  4. https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/nuclear-101-how-does-nuclear-reactor-work 

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