UK researchers have built a ‘smart’ magnetic stirrer bar that collects and transmits reaction data, allowing researchers to follow their experiments in real time.

Monitoring reaction progress often requires laborious sampling protocols, or expensive equipment for real-time reaction tracking. Now, researchers at the University of Warwick, UK, have created a smart stirrer bar that gathers information as a reaction takes place, and relays the data to a user’s computer or smartphone.

Microelectronics encased in a 3D-printed shell record temperature, conductivity, colour, stirring rate and even a reaction mixture’s viscosity. And thanks to an embedded Bluetooth transmitter, the stirrer bar can communicate the information in real time.

The researchers who created the device say that all of the components are available for less than $20 (£15), which they claim is 1% of the price of existing equipment for collecting live reaction data. The software that runs the smart stirrer is open-source, so users can tailor it to their own experiments.

However, there are a couple of drawbacks. The on-board electronics only operate in the temperature range –40–85°C, so dry-ice chilled reactions are out of bounds. And at 5cm long, it’s at the bigger end of stirrer bars so you’ll only be able to use it for relatively large-scale experiments.