Robots: Humans' Dependable Helpers

Research and Development in Robotic Systems

Robot-based Sample Preparation

© Fraunhofer IFF
© Fraunhofer IFF, Oliver Lange

Microbiological Sample Preparation Robot (Mirob)

Commercially available automated technology that prepares samples for microbial analyses directly from the Petri dish is rarely satisfactory. In particular, the entire process of using mass spectrometers (e.g. MALDI-TOF) to rapidly identify samples and constituents and matching them with a data-base (e.g. SARAMIS) needs to be speeded up.

Sample preparation in particular is time consuming and even hazardous since humans manually transfer a highly concentrated microorganism colony from the agar surface to the target of analysis.


The objective is to automatically prepare samples to determine microbe species through mass spectrometry. The identification of species is based on the detection of key proteins. The masses of proteins are matched with a database instead of a specific bio-chemical reaction. The robot reduces the setup time for 100 samples to less than one hour. In the process, it additionally establishes a pure culture in a microtiter plate. Thus, not only can a sample be easily tracked through a database but a microorganism can also be accessed for subsequent analyses.


A conveyor belt feeds the Petri dishes to the robot. A vacuum sucker takes off the cover and the grip arm lifts the plates from the belt and places them on a table with three degrees of freedom. The table positions the dishes extremely precisely so that even pinpoint colonies of 0.5mm in diameter can be reliably identified, measured and sampled. The cell material is stripped off on the target or suspended. Afterward, the same inoculating rod inoculates the culture medium prepared in the microtiter plate. The inoculating rod is designed to be disposable and is automatically re-placed. After the cover has been put on, the conveyer belt again transports the Petri dishes out of the robot station.

Project Partners

  • Anagnostec GmbH
  • Engelke Engineering Arts
  • Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
  • IMOS Proteome Factory AG
  • Symacon GmbH

This project was supported by the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe and the BMBF as part of its program Production for Tomorrow (02PH2070).