At last weeks SB5.0 conference, Siyuan Chen, an engineer from Agilent Technologies, remarked during his talk that one “shouldn’t try to get DNA synthesis to work with a home computer because it wouldn’t work”. This is a gauntlet thrown if ever I did see one. And I promptly accepted said gauntlet over twitter. Yet it would seem that someone has actually beat me to the punch. In 2004, Christoper Lausted et al. out of The Institute for Systems Biology published a wonderful paper titled “POSaM: a fast, flexible, open-source, inkjet oligonucleotide synthesizer and microarrayer” complete with all the necessary schematics and assembly instructions(pdf linked). The design is quite impressive and extremely low cost using mostly off the shelf components. I have a feeling it was a bit ahead of its time and that with the advent of DIYbio could find new life as an active Open Source project.
The POSaM platform. (a) Overview. The complete inkjet printing system is enclosed in an air-tight acrylic cover, 61 × 91 × 122 cm. (b) View from above showing the array holder. One slide is shown secured by the vacuum check with room for 26 additional slides. (c) Front view showing the print/wash head. Five PTFE wash lines deliver acetonitrile, oxidizer and deprotecting acid in bulk. Six vials supply tetrazole and phosphoramidites to the inkjet print head. (d) Lower-front view of the inkjet print head showing droplets passing through the QC laser beam. The presence of a droplet produces forward-scattered light, visible as bright red flashes (arrowed).
Original Paper: http://genomebiology.com/2004/5/8/R58