Video: A bot smart enough to pipette

A MIT professor makes a robot that can do chemistry on the fly.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor on

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 www.biodot.com."

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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