Scientists at the University of Liverpool have unveiled a robotic colleague that has been working non-stop in their lab throughout lockdown.
The £100,000 programmable researcher learns from its results to refine its experiments.
“It can work autonomously, so I can run experiments from home,” explained Benjamin Burger, one of the developers.
Such technology could make scientific discovery “a thousand times faster”, scientists say.
A new report by the Royal Society of Chemistry lays out a “post-Covid national research strategy”, using robotics, artificial intelligence and advanced computing as part of a suite of technologies that “must be urgently embraced” to help socially distancing scientists continue their search for solutions to global challenges.
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The robotic scientist is currently embarking on a series of tests to find a catalyst that could speed up the reaction that takes place inside solar cells.
But it could, according to Prof Andy Cooper, the materials scientist who has put the robot to work in his lab, be used in the fight against Covid-19.
“We’ve had a lot of interest [in the robot] from labs that are doing Covid research,” he told Tips4Hacking.
“Covid, climate change – there are lots of problems that really need international co-operation. So our vision is we might have robots like this all across the world connected by a centralised brain which can be anywhere. We haven’t done that yet – this is the first example – but that’s absolutely what we’d like to do.”