In this episode of Tools of the Trade at CSHL, we see a robotic microwave at work. It’s one of several instruments used to help speed up chemical reactions in the lab of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Professor John E. Moses.
Some chemical reactions need to be triggered by heat. Chemists can submerge their samples in a bath of hot oil to heat them up, but that process can take a while and can be dangerous. The robotic microwave allows scientists to safely trigger chemical reactions quickly using microwave radiation to heat the samples.
Once the reaction tube is set in place, the automated robot arm picks up and delivers the sample into the microwave reaction chamber. The machine can be programmed to heat the sample with microwave radiation of varying intensity and times. Once the heating cycle is finished, the microwave door opens; the robotic arm plucks the sample from the chamber then places the sample back into a rack of test tube holders outside the machine. The robotic arm makes clicks and a gentle whirring noise as it operates