Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Today's Test Tubes

Picture that icon of science, the test tube. Now forget it-or at least envision it as a vastly smaller and differently shaped vessel that is leading to a much faster, more organized, and less expensive way to develop drugs, agrichemicals, and advanced materials.

The square-inch grid shown here contains 128 troughs-new-wave test tubes-filled with varying combinations of metallic oxides that scientists examined for their ability to form high-temperature superconductors. A research team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, led by physicist Xiao-Dong Xiang and chemist Peter Schultz, used a gun-like mechanism to deposit the chemicals. After applying heat to mix and stabilize them, the scientists lowered a plate with 128 probes to test which compounds showed negligible electrical resistance at certain temperatures-an indication of potential superconductivity.

In a process known as combinatorial chemistry, scientists are using such grids to assemble and evaluate large numbers of permutations of compounds at one time. To continue their research, for example, Xiang and his colleagues created one-inch grids with 1,024 troughs earlier this year.

This story is part of our August/September 1997 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

This photograph, which shows molecular combinations diffracting light like paints in a miniature watercolor palette, was taken by Felice Frankel, artist-in-residence at MIT’s Edgerton Center. Her forthcoming book On the Surface of Things (Chronicle Books, 1997) will include a similar image, among many other photographs, and text by George Whitesides, a Harvard University professor of chemistry.

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Online Only.
  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.