Video: A bot smart enough to pipette

A MIT professor makes a robot that can do chemistry on the fly.

Some hacks make things we could never use like these batteries made of pennies . But one professor at MIT has taken the whole DIY thing to a new level, turning toys into medical devices. This time, MIT's Jose Gomez-Marquez made a robot that can perform laboratory scale experiments from scratch.

It's far from perfect though. Gomez-Marquez wrote on Google Plus that the "first step is getting the mechanical action ready. Our next challenge is to get the volumes down to a size that is more useful."

I asked him to explain what the makerbot is doing in this video.

Gomez-Marquez said:

"The makerbot hack is a way of making an affordable liquid handler for automated chemistry and or arrays. That way we can print our own diagnostics without one of these"

Watch the makerbot in action. A student in Gomez-Marquez's lab named Nabila Agila got this makerbot to work properly:

The appeal of using DIY methods for laboratory equipment is growing within the research community. For instance, Harvard's professor George Whitesides pioneered that with microfluidics. A Wired story called microfluidics like computer chips with plumbing -- likely to become an important part of medical technology in the future.

The DIY biology movement seems to be catching on, even moving beyond garage experiments to more formal ones -- in which entire communities form around it. It will be interesting to see what comes out of Gomez-Marquez's lab.

That said, a more popular video floating around the Internet is of this guy talking about how he put an LED light on a contact lens and put it into his eye!

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