The preparation of specimens for cryo-electron microscopy is currently a labor and time intensive process, and the quality of resulting samples is highly dependent on both environmental and procedural factors. Specimens must be applied to sample grids in a high-humidity environment, frozen in liquid ethane, and stored in liquid nitrogen. The complexity of the process and limited operational scope of current equiment necessitates the need for highly trained personnel to prepare samples.
In coordination with Baylor College of Medicine, we are using an Adept Cobra SCARA-type industrial robot to automate the process, from the retrieval of sample grids through to the storage of the vitrified samples. This fully robotic system offers distinct advantages over current systems, and has the flexibility to adapt as future needs dictate.