They're fast, reliable, and tireless. Now they want a place at the bench. Can machines adopt the scientific method?
PITTSBURGH--Repetitive lab work makes John Lindsey's mind wander. After a week or so of compound making - repetitive lab work at its worst - the Carnegie Mellon University chemist begins to think about automation. Robots. In particular, robots that can do his job.

Lindsey has spent five years pursuing the construction of just such a machine - a compact and reliable robot that can perform the repetitive measure-mix-stir-analyze cycle of synthetic chemistry in the lab. "Chemists are still making compounds the way they did 100 years ago," he complains. "Once the chemist has a compound, of course, he can analyze it with a broad array of [automated] tools, but getting there is the problem. I wanted to push automation further up into the process."

With help from Carnegie Mellon artificial intelligence...

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