Saturday, May 17, 2008

UsefulChem Automation Trial with Mettler Toledo

Kevin Owens and I have been looking into equipment to automate some UsefulChem experiments.

This is something that I feel strongly will become important in Open Science applications, especially as it relates to Open Notebook Science. I think it is one of the paths of least resistance for the automation of the scientific process.

Industry is automated to the gills but it will probably be easier to convince academic practitioners of Open Science to automate their procedures rather than to get industry to open their data. Can you imagine a company allowing crowds to design and analyze experiments run on their machines? That is what we've been proposing and it would be difficult to reconcile that with a business model based on IP protection.

In that NSF proposal, we planned to use ChemSpeed's technology. Kevin and I recently visited ChemSpeed at their Princeton location and we were impressed with the capabilities of their reactors. We're in the process of planning a trial run of the Ugi reaction on their system and we'll post on the progress of that on this UC wiki page. The idea is to couple a digital camera within the robot's workflow to be able to generate results comparable to those manually generated by my students.

ChemSpeed's systems are quite powerful but also expensive (200-400K). In order to take advantage of more funding opportunities, we've also been looking at Mettler-Toledo's MiniMapper/MiniBlock solutions. We're planning this out openly on this wiki page - any feedback is welcome.

I've had a good discussion with Frank Schoenen at the University of Kansas, where they run both systems as part of servicing the NIH Roadmap Program. Based on his feedback I think this trial run should be successful.

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At 12:57 AM, Blogger kanzure said...


I was reading through my backlog of feed items and found this article on scientific automation of chemical instrumentation. I'm a big advocate myself; I keep an excessively long list of analytical instrumentation technologies. What more, I was figuring this would be a good place to drop mention about an open source automation/manufacturing group under the title of SKDB, a social knowledge database, and OSCOMAK, the OSCOMAK Semantic Community on Open Manufacturing Artifacts and Know-how.

There's a few links, like:
A dense explanation of SKDB and the open source manufacturing project [some of the goals, etc.]

Currently we're doing some demos, but basically the general idea is to use the same basis of debian which, according to Wikipedia's take (with refs), "has created more than $10 billion USD in value" -- basically by aggregatting tens of thousands of software packages for easy download and manipulation. What if we could do this for science? For manufacturing? For making, stuff?

It's getting interesting. The demos are currently simple paper-folding tasks with output from a printer, but it gets the point across. The next step is hooking up some equipment, discussing the social 'infrastructure' for developing the data files, etc.

- Bryan

At 4:53 AM, Blogger Jean-Claude Bradley said...

Bryan thanks for posting. The concept of open design and participation extends to so many other areas beyond the chemistry that I am describing here. The links you provided should help people explore that.


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