Researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, developed a "molecule-maker" machine that can automatically build various small organic molecules.
It is difficult for chemists to develop a new molecule in the lab, as it requires a lot of stimulating and predicting before a new molecule is developed. The molecule maker allows chemists to draw a new molecule and have the machine put it together without any assistance.
The machine has the potential to speed up and enable new drug development and other technologies that rely on small molecules.
Martin D. Burke, the lead scientist on the project, said, "We wanted to take a very complex process, chemical synthesis, and make it simple."
The molecule-maker works by bringing together multiple pre-made molecular blocks that can predictably snap together. Blocks are delivered one at a time using a mechanism that washes away any excess reagents before the next step is taken.
This has already led to the development of more than a dozen different classes of drugs and the potential exists for making many thousands more.