• Burke’s machine simplifies the complex process of synthesizing chemical into a series of generalizable steps. Whether you’re trying to form a ring of carbon atoms or strip away hydrogen atoms, each step requires a dose of starting chemicals, which Burke separates into distinct building blocks. Think of them as simple groups of chemical compounds like O2 or CO2 that snap together.
  • To perform each step, the machine connects a building block and then induces a chemical reaction and washes away the reaction’s byproducts—slowly building each molecule from the ground up. The building blocks are snapped together like LEGOs, allowing the chemicals to mix and a reaction to take place.
  • Using this process, Burke showed that his machine could manufacture thousands of different chemicals in 14 distinct classes of small molecules, including known medicines to several molecules used in LEDs and solar cells. The amount of time each molecule’s synthesis requires is a matter of hours, depending on how many steps are involved.

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