Another success for the world of robotics this month comes from a Rutgers-led team of engineers who have developed an innovative way of producing polymers through the use of automated technology. Using robots in such a way will make the development of many advanced, health-improving materials much easier. 

Synthetic polymers are used a lot in advanced materials. And while a good human researcher can probably create a few polymers per day, this new robotic system can churn out up to 384 different polymers at the same time. The use of polymers to develop new technologies is crucial. They’re used in various technologies including electronics, lighting, sensors, diagnostics, and medical devices. 

“Typically, researchers synthesize polymers in highly controlled environments, limiting the development of large libraries of complex materials, “explains assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, and senior author of the paper, Adam J. Gormley. “By automating polymer synthesis and using a robotic platform, it is now possible to rapidly create a multitude of unique materials.”

A Rutgers-led team adapted advanced liquid handling robotics to perform the chemistry required for synthesizing synthetic polymers. This new automated approach enables the rapid exploration of new materials valuable in industry and medicine.
CREDIT Matthew Tamasi

As well as helping researchers make materials, robotics also aid in the discovery and development of various drugs. The problem is that synthesizing polymers can be tricky as most chemical reactions need to be done without oxygen present. However, Gromley’s platform works on reactions that aren’t volatile when mixed with oxygen which gives his team one big advantage over others – the fact that even non-experts can now create polymers in just a few simple steps.