Since the advent of modern science, researchers have had to rely on their technical skills or the support of specialized workshops to construct analytical instruments. The notion of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ promotes construction of customized systems by individuals using widely available, inexpensive electronic modules. This protocol shows how chemists and biochemists can utilize a broad range of microcontroller boards (MCBs) and single-board computers (SBCs) to improve experimental designs and address scientific questions. We provide seven example procedures for laboratory routines that can be expedited by implementing this technology: (i) injection of microliter-volume liquid plugs into microscale capillaries for low-volume assays; (ii) transfer of liquid extract to a mass spectrometer; (iii) liquid–gas extraction of volatile organic compounds (called ‘fizzy extraction’), followed by mass spectrometric detection; (iv) monitoring of experimental conditions over the Internet cloud in real time; (v) transfer of analytes to a mass spectrometer via a liquid microjunction interface, data acquisition, and data deposition into the Internet cloud; (vi) feedback control of a biochemical reaction; and (vii) optimization of sample flow rate in direct-infusion mass spectrometry. The protocol constitutes a primer for chemists and biochemists who would like to take advantage of MCBs and SBCs in daily experimentation. It is assumed that the readers have not attended any courses related to electronics or programming. Using the instructions provided in this protocol and the cited material, readers should be able to assemble simple systems to facilitate various procedures performed in chemical and biochemical laboratories in 1–2 d.
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The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
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We acknowledge the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), Taiwan (grant nos. 104-2628-M-007-006-MY4, 108-2113-M-007-017, and 108-3017-F-007-003); the National Chiao Tung University; the National Tsing Hua University (grant no. 108QI009E1); the Frontier Research Center on Fundamental and Applied Sciences of Matters; and the Featured Areas Research Center Program within the framework of the Higher Education Sprout Project established by the Ministry of Education (MOE), Taiwan.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Protocols thanks Leroy Cronin and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work
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Key references using this protocol
Yang, H.-H., Dutkiewicz, E. P. & Urban, P. L. Anal. Chim. Acta 1034, 85–91 (2018): https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aca.2018.06.072
Chang, C.-H. & Urban, P. L. Anal. Chem. 88, 8735–8740 (2016): https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.analchem.6b02074
Prabhu, G. R. D., Witek, H. A. & Urban, P. L. Sens. Actuators B Chem. 282, 992–998 (2019): https://doi.org/10.1016/j.snb.2018.11.033
Supplementary Figs. 1–22.
Scripts used in example Procedure 1
Scripts used in example Procedure 2
Scripts used in example Procedure 3
Scripts used in example Procedure 4
Scripts used in example Procedure 5
Scripts used in example Procedure 6
Scripts used in example Procedure 7
Soldering wires and electronic components.
Procedure 1: securing tubing onto the holder and setting up the in-capillary assay experiment.
Procedure 2: setting up the CLLE experiment.
Procedure 3: setting up the sample chamber for fizzy extraction.
Procedure 4: setting up the chamber with sensors to monitor yeast growth.
Procedure 5: setting up the circuit, assembling LMJ-SSP.
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Prabhu, G.R.D., Yang, T., Hsu, C. et al. Facilitating chemical and biochemical experiments with electronic microcontrollers and single-board computers. Nat Protoc 15, 925–990 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41596-019-0272-1