New Space and Tech

StarTrek Tech: A Chemical Replicator

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
October 11, 2022
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StarTrek Tech: A Chemical Replicator
Robotic systems for synthetic chemistry

Robotic systems for synthetic chemistry are becoming more common, but they are expensive, fixed to a narrow set of reactions, and must be used within a complex laboratory environment.

A portable system that could synthesize known molecules anywhere, on demand, and in a fully automated way, could revolutionize access to important molecules. Here we present a portable suitcase-sized chemical synthesis platform containing all the modules required for synthesis and purification.

The system uses a chemical programming language coupled to a digital reactor generator to produce reactors and executable protocols based on text-based literature syntheses. Simultaneously, the platform generates a reaction pressure fingerprint, used to monitor processes within the reactors and remotely perform a protocol quality control.

We demonstrate the system by synthesizing five small organic molecules, four oligopeptides and four oligonucleotides, in good yields and purities, with a total of 24,936 base steps executed over 329 h of platform runtime.

Paper: An autonomous portable platform for universal chemical synthesis, Nature

Nanotechnology, Star Trek,

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.