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Robots for the Lab

Researchers have developed a robotic lab assistant they say can perform some tasks 1,000 times faster than their human counterparts, the Verge reports.

The Verge notes there are already automated tools in many labs, but senior author Andrew Cooper from the University of Liverpool tells it that his team's approach aims to automate the researcher, rather than the instrument. As they report in Nature this week, Cooper and his colleagues developed a mobile robot they designed that can travel from lab bench to lab bench to perform a range of tasks, such as handling sample vials and using instruments. For their paper, they had the robot perform 688 experiments as part of a search for better photocatalysts to produce hydrogen from water.

At the Verge, Cooper notes the goal of having the robot is not necessarily the ability to do the work faster, but to take on tedious tasks human researchers might otherwise shy away from.

The University of Glasgow's Lee Cronin tells the Verge, though, that a robotic lab assistant would likely be an expensive, niche tool.