A team from the University of California, Riverside has developed a LEGO-like system of blocks that enables users to make custom chemical and biological research instruments quickly, easily and affordably. The 3D-printed blocks can create various scientific tools, which can be used in university labs, schools, hospitals, or anywhere else.
The blocks–which are called Multifluidic Evolutionary Components (MECs)–are described in the journal PLOS ONE. Each unit performs a basic task found in a lab instrument, such as pumping fluids, making measurements, or interfacing with a user. Since the blocks are designed to work together, users can build apparatus—like bioreactors for making alternative fuels or acid-base titration tools for high school chemistry classes—rapidly and efficiently. The blocks are especially well-suited for resource-limited settings, where a library of blocks could be utilized to create an assortment of different research and diagnostic equipment.
The project is led by graduate student Douglas Hill along with assistant professor of bioengineering William Grover, and is funded by the National Science Foundation. You can read all about the 3D-printed system here, and check out the video below which reveals an Arduino Uno being put to work.