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Researchers in the Department of Engineering Science have recently launched Chi.Bio, a robotic bio-reactor for manipulation and characterisation of liquid culture biological systems.

The reactor has a working volume of 12-25ml, and includes integrated heating, stirring, OD and fluorescence measurement systems. It also has an array of tuneable light outputs in the UV and visual range, which can be used to actuate optogenetic systems or cause DNA damage. A modular liquid handling board can be integrated with the platform, which allows it to be run as a turbidostat/chemostat, and additional liquid inputs can be used to vary media makeup or other chemical concentrations. The entire system is operated through an easy-to-use graphical user interface, which plots data and actuation inputs in real-time. Additional user-defined automation and control functions (which combine any of the platform’s actuation/measurement systems) can be easily implemented in Python. The platform is compatible with a wide range of cell types, and is ideally suited to applications in systems, synthetic, and evolutionary biology.

The team have made the platform’s hardware and software open-source; more information, as well as user guides and documentation, is available on the project website The system can be assembled by an end-user for approximately £250, or purchased pre-made for £500.