Common Lab Units of Measure

Common Lab Units of Measure

When carrying out scientific experiments in the lab it’s important that measurements are precise. Units of measurement are used by lab professionals to represent quantities of length, mass, quantity, or temperature. When documenting information, doing formulaic work, and evaluating results, laboratory professionals and scientists in general inevitably make use of measuring units in their work. 

The International Sytems of Units (SI) is the measuring unit that is most commonly used by scientists. One of the major benefits of standardised units of measurement is how they help to communicate information between scientists and society, or from scientists to their peers. As lab units of measure are an important aspect of scientific work, in this article we will further explore the common lab units of measure and their significance in the laboratory and beyond. 

The Development of Units of Measure

In ancient times, before we had the modern tools that now make it easy to measure attributes like height and width we used less sophisticated means and standards of measurement. Hand span, foot span, and arm span were all instruments we used to make measurements. These means were relatable, and easy for people to understand, but less effective than the ones we have today because people’s hands, feet and other body parts vary in size. Better standards for measurement were needed as time progressed and the need to share information about measurements increased. 

The birth of the International System of Units (the modern version of the metric system) is the most notable advancement in standards of measurement. The Imperial system and US customary system units are also examples of unit systems that were more commonly used over time as a means to get standardised, precise measurements around the world.

Since we’ve established that the units generally accepted by the scientific world are critical for precise research work. Let’s dive into what these exact measurement units are.

SI Units of Measurement

The SI units comprise every type of measurement but seated at the centre of these units are a group of units commonly referred to as “the base units”. 

There are seven SI base units that are generally accepted:  


Base Unit Name











Amounts of substance 



Electric current










The advantage of a system like the International System of Units is that it allows for measurements to be standardised and comparable worldwide. This gives the general public trust in measurements that are commonly used. For example, let’s say you go to a shop and are looking for a product that is a certain size. If the shop is displaying products that are in a measurement you are familiar with (such as metres or centimetres) you can feel confident that the products are the size you perceive them to be, and this should better help you find the product you’re looking for. Having generally accepted metrics is useful as there are many fields in which precision is a priority, specifically in the laboratory realm where lab work can involve diagnosing medical conditions and ensuring food and medication are safe for consumption.

Imperial Units of Measurement

The Imperial units of measurement are the systems of weights and measurements that were once used by Great Britain. These units were formerly known as the British Imperial system. Similarly to the SI units of measurement, the imperial system uses various metrics to take measurements of length, mass, volume, area etc.

The table below displays the imperial units of measurement: 


Imperial Units


foot, inch, yard, mile


ounce, pound, stone, ton


gallon, pint, quart, fluid ounce


It is possible to communicate these units in the form of SI units and vice versa, as they are regularly accepted forms of measurement.  

Units That Measure Length

A length is an amount that indicates how long an object is. Measuring length is applicable when trying to figure out values like distance covered or height. All the units of measurement for length fall under the same category, and as each measurement of length has a common value, they can be communicated in terms of each other. For instance, 1m can be expressed as 100cm. Have a look at the table below, where we showcase the commonly used units of measurement for length and their conversions. 


Type of Units

Units of Measurement 


SI Units 


1 cm = 10 mm

Meter (m)

1 m = 100 cm

Kilometer (km)

1 km = 1000 m

Millimeter (mm)

1 mm = 0.001 m

Imperial Units

Foot (feet)

1 foot = 12 inch

Inches (inch)

1 inch = 0.83333 feet


1 mile = 5280 feet


1 yard = 3 feet = 36-inch


Units That Measure Mass

Mass is a measurement of how much matter there is in an object, people often use it interchangeably with the term “weight”, but the latter is actually measurement of the force that gravity exerts on an object rather than the amount of that object. The SI unit that is used for mass is kilogram (kg). Below you can find the units of measurement that are most commonly used regarding mass. 

Type of Units

Units of Measurement


Metric Units 

Milligram (mg)

1 mg = 0.001 g

Gram (g)

1 g = 1000 mg

Kilogram (kg)

1 kg = 1000 g

Imperial Units 

Ounce (oz)

1 oz = 0.0625 lb

Pound (lb)

1lb = 16 oz


1 ton = 2000 lbs


Units That Measure Volume

Volume is the amount of space an object takes up or the upper limit of space that an object has, also known as capacity. Litres (L) are the SI unit of volume. Cubic length meters such as centimetre cube (cm3) and meter cube (m3) are examples of how the units for volume can be expressed.

Units That Measure Temperature

Temperature is the extent to which an object or atmosphere is hot or cold. The most commonly used measurements of temperature are Celsius, Kelvin, and Fahrenheit. The SI unit for measuring temperature is Kelvin. You can see the various units of measuring temperature and how they can be converted by looking at the table below. 

Units of Measurement 


Celsius (C)

0°C = 273.15 K = 32°F

Kelvin (K)

0 K = -273. 15°C = -459.57 °F

Fahrenheit (F)

0°F = -17.778°C = 255.372 K


The formula C/5 = (F – 32) / 9 = (K – 273.15) / 5 is generally used to convert temperature into different units.  

Units That Measure Time

Time is the duration of an activity. Units such as seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years are usually how we measure time. The table below outlines the generally accepted units for time and their conversions. 

Units of Measurement


Second (s)

1 s = 1/60 min

Minute (min)

1 min = 60 s

Hour (hr)

1 hr = 60 min = 3600 s


1 day = 24 hr


1 week = 7 days


1 month = 4 weeks


1 year = 12 months


These units of time are consistent throughout out the world. 

Although we were once hindered by a lack of sophisticated measuring tools and forced to use metrics like handspan and armspan, today we have a comprehensive list of measurements that are applicable to our everyday use. The laboratory world in particular has reaped the benefits of the advancement of units of measure. At Techmate, we understand the necessity that there is in the lab to use metrics for precise and accurate measurements and have standards that allow results to be comparable. This is why we offer sophisticated lab equipment that are the solution to your measurement needs. So whether you’re looking for handheld thermometers, pH meters or calipers, either contact us or look through our catalogue to find the perfect instrument for your lab work.