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Do-It-Yourself Molecules

March 19, 2015

A new molecule-making machine is like a 3-D printer for chemistry.



Do it yourself molecules. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The term “small molecules” refers to compact chemical structures that are important in medicine, electronics, and many other applications. Synthesizing new ones is slow and difficult. But now, University of Illinois chemist Martin Burke and his colleagues report in the journal Science on a machine that lets you create them quickly from a set of molecular building blocks.

Martin Burke (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign):

You can input building blocks, through a computer instruct the machine which building blocks to put together, and then the machine will actually assemble the building blocks into new small molecules which can then be studied for their function.


Researchers can start with an existing drug or electronic material, make changes to it, and see if it shows useful new characteristics. He even foresees making molecule building machines available to the public, the way 3-D printers are today. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.