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automated chemistry lab

create your favourite chemical at home...
  (+4, -1)
(+4, -1)
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Current technology allows the average person to delve into most sciences without the need for a major laboratory (with telescopes, computers, internet etc.), but chemistry tends to remain out of reach.

I propose an automated device that contains some basic elements of a chemistry lab such as a heater, centrifuge, electrolysis device, spectroscope etc. and a means of transferring substances between these basic elements eg. a robotic arm.

Insert the base chemicals eg. ammonia, ethanol, peroxide etc.., download and program the recipe for producing desired chemical off the internet, and voila chemical is ready.

make yourself a quick batch of asprin, prozac etc...

xaviergisz, Aug 04 2004

Blister packing http://www.uhlmann....machine-b-1880.html
Click The picture top right [gnomethang, Oct 04 2004, last modified Mar 29 2012]

Don't Try This at Home http://wired.com/wi...4.06/chemistry.html
Garage chemistry used to be a rite of passage for geeky kids. But in their search for terrorist cells and meth labs, authorities are making a federal case out of DIY science [xaviergisz, May 30 2006]


       hmmmm base metal into gol...
po, Aug 04 2004

       I think the problem is that in order to produce such useful things as listed, your automated device would end up looking like a large chemistry lab.
BTW, have you ever seen a blister packing line? - about 15 metres long and climate controlled!
gnomethang, Aug 04 2004

       Ah but [gnomethang], most drugs are made in simple stirred vessels (chuck the base chemicals in at something around the right temperature and cross your fingers). There is surprisingly little science behind production methods for low-volume products. I suspect [xaviergisz] is fantasising about being able to produce either some mind-altering substances or weapons-grade explosives at home. (-)
suctionpad, Aug 04 2004

       yep, contracts, that's exactly what I was thinking of... I didn't realize you could actually buy a chemistry set.   

       gnomethang, nope I've never seen a blister packing line, sounds exciting.   

       I don't claim to be a guru in chemistry, but as I understand it, making chemicals is a repetitive process adding chemicals, heating, distilling etc. It's not the kind of thing most people have the patience for... but robots/computers love that kind of thing.   

       This machine would appeal to the amateur scientist or someone trying to make drugs (recreational or therapeutic) cheaply.   

       think of the difference between this machine and a chemistry set, as the difference between a photocopier and pen and paper.
xaviergisz, Aug 04 2004

       //the difference between a photocopier and pen and paper// - what, about £2000? :p At least then you couldn't be blamed when there was an explosion in your bedroom, [Abysmal] - "it wasn't me, I was elsewhere at the time".
david_scothern, Aug 05 2004

       //The centr[I]fuge, ... these are things that are relatively inexpensive//   

       Cost of small lab-bench centrifuge ~$3000.
suctionpad, Aug 05 2004

       Also note that while it is easy to make drugs like asprin in a small lab, it is very difficult to make them to a level of purity that makes them fit for human consumption.
evilmathgenius, Aug 05 2004

       my dad was a pharmacist and made up all kinds of medicines, linctus, creams and tablets by hand using basic ingredients - he would have said that they were as pure as anything you could buy today.
po, Aug 05 2004

       hmm, someone annotated (then deleted) a comment about lowering the cost of this device by virtue of mass-production, to which I agree. I believe that none of the components of the device are intrinsically expensive to manufacture... I mean how hard is it to build a centrifuge, a heater, a robotic arm, a spectroscope... maybe not to the same rigorous standards required of a lab, but good enough to work... use some imagination people.
xaviergisz, Aug 05 2004

       "I mean how hard is it to build a centrifuge, a heater, a robotic arm, a spectroscope..."   

       Individually, maybe not all that hard. Altogether in an automated package that requires little to no human intervention? Really, really hard. And really expensive. I think if you started pricing the individual components you'd need you'd be shocked. Scientific equipment is sometimes absurdly expensive.   

       I think evilmathgenius has it basically right that the biggest problem would come up in purification. As a practicing organic chemist, I can tell you that the hard part of chemistry is not following directions in weighing out and mixing ingredients under the right conditions; it's purifying what you've made and figuring out, with any kind of certainty, just what it is. Purification generally means column chromatography, which is a complex and difficult process not amenable to automation.   

       You'll also have a problem with all the consumables required...solvents, inert gas, silica gel, drying agents, filter paper, etc.   

       Process chemistry, which is basically the discipline you're hoping to automate, is directed toward the synthesis of compounds on the gram-to-kilogram scale. It lies somewhere between chemical engineering and pure organic chemistry and is very often considered the most demanding and intellectually rewarding of the career options available to an organic chemist. Reactions which work on a milligram scale do not necessarily work on a gram scale, and figuring out the best route to handfuls of an arbitrary chemical structure is at least as much art as science.
iamanangelchaser, Nov 29 2006

       //Altogether in an automated package that requires little to no human intervention? Really, really hard. And really expensive//   

       [iamanangelchaser], you haven't provided a persuasive argument. I look at something like Robosapien V2 for $190, and reach the opposite conclusion.   

       Ok, the purification stages sounds difficult, but not impossible.   

       Admit it [iamanangelchaser], if you could get this for $2000, wild horses couldn't stop you from buying it.
xaviergisz, Nov 30 2006


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