Calibrating or diluting an item are daily lab actions, but require an analyst to be present in person. Something that hasn’t always been possible during this pandemic. Now, according to the BBC, scientists at the University of Liverpool have developed a robotic arm that continuously works in the laboratory despite the confinement of scientists at home.

“It can work autonomously, so I can perform experiments at home,” says Benjamin Burger, one of the project developers and expert in experimental robotics. “This technology could make scientific discovery a thousand times faster,” explains the scientist.


A robotic arm to speed up laboratory work

As described by the BBC, the programmable robotic arm project has a approximate cost of around 110,000 euros. The arm is currently in use. Officials keep it moving to perform tests to find a catalyst that can speed up the reaction that takes place inside photovoltaic cells.

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Although, according to Professor Andy Cooper, director of the Materials Discovery Center and the Liverpool Materials Innovation Factory and responsible for the project, this robotic arm could be used for multiple surveys, including the fight against Covid-19.

The robotic arm was introduced in June 2019 and its development took 3 years. The device is mounted on a movable platform and is approximately the size of a person.

The performance of the robotic arm is very high and is that, according to officials, it can investigate approximately 1000 formulations of a catalyst in about a week, the equivalent of what a doctoral student can do in 4 years.

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At the moment, the robot has no interface and requires a programmer to operate. Although as described by the creators of the journal Nature, “once operational, any lab technician could learn to control it in a matter of weeks »

“Covid, climate change… there are a lot of issues that really require international cooperation. Our vision is that we could have robots like this all over the world connected by a centralized brain that could be anywhere. We haven’t done it yet. This is the first example, but it’s absolutely what we would like to do, “Cooper tells the BBC.

Without going that far, Benjamin Burguer explains to Nature that the robot can completely accelerate the processes within the laboratory, being able “to easily pass thousands of samples in a short time” and ” giving scientists time to focus on innovation and new solutions »

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The UK’s Royal Society of Chemistry explains in its Digital Futures report that robotics is one of the areas that could have the greatest impact on the chemical industry and research over the next decade.

Source : Engadget