A standard system for laboratory equipment development

Public Chat
Similar projects worth following
BeeHive is a modular electronics framework to make the development of laboratory equipment easier and more affordable!


If you ever been to a biology laboratory, you might have noticed that a lot of the equipment in there are designed to perform very specific tasks. Each task is normally performed by one machine, but from the electronics point of view, all these machines have a lot of similar modules!! Here are some examples, with each item in the list below organized as:

  • task - machine examples - electronics module (overall view)
  • Heating.cooling static samples - Dry baths, PCR machines - peltier elements, H-bridge, temperature sensors
  • Heating/cooling flowing solutions - in line heater, heated chambers - peltier elements, H-bridge, temperarture sensors
  • Keeping air in a chamber at constant conditions - incubator - peltier elements, H-bridge, temperature sensors
  • Controlling fluid injection - syringe pumps - stepper driver
  • Controlling fluid flow (reward systems, perfusion) - peristaltic pumps, solenoid valves - H-bridge/solenoid controller
  • control gas flow - solenoid valves - H-Bridge/solenoid controller
  • Measuring environmental variables (temperature, humidity, light levels) in  animal husbandry rooms - different types of sensors - microcontroller+sensors

All of the above are just a subset of the types of machines in a lab, and what we can see from these examples is that there is a lot of repetition on the electronics behind different devices!

Unfortunately, this repetition did not bring about the benefits we would expect, that is, these machines are not made cheaper or more accessible because they could have interchangeable parts, or because they are easy to repair, etc.

Being expensive and only available for purchase via a few different companies, makes these machines only accessible by researchers in academic institutions. And even in this case, researchers have to be in well funded laboratories in specific locations in the globe (as being away from the "global north" increases the complexities of shipping, customer care, customs etc).



One possible solution for the problem mentioned above is to make scientific equipment easier to access/build/understand/modify.

This is where BeeHive comes in! We are building a modular platform that will allow people to pick up different modules and build equipment, making using of re-usable electronic modules as well as code.

The system specification:


  • A central breakout board for ESP32
  • different custom PCBs, each responsible for one task (H-bridge, solenoid driver, 8 switch array, IR photo transistor controller, temperature sensor breakout)
  • Standard pin out for the boards, allowing other PCBs to be created by anyone
  • compatibility with GROVE System for different sensors and actuators
  • A training board with different actuators and sensors so that users can focus on developing their own different firmware for their applications, before figuring out the electronics and their connections (to be implemented)


  • MicroPython
  • Compatibility with Bonsai-RX using Open Sound Control protocol
  • Compatibilty with LabThings for smart control/observation of the different tools.


An overview of potential applications for the system

Portable Network Graphics (PNG) - 533.21 kB - 08/06/2021 at 16:41



First prototype of BeeHive. ESP32 on protoboard, plus PCBs that contain "spike and hold" circuit (2X per board) to control solenoid valves

JPEG Image - 2.42 MB - 06/30/2021 at 11:58



PCB iteration of the central hub of BeeHive.

JPEG Image - 2.58 MB - 06/30/2021 at 11:57



H-Bridge circuits to control linear actuator and DC motors

JPEG Image - 2.10 MB - 06/30/2021 at 11:57


View all 12 components

  • BeeHive modules

    Ihor Sobianin08/21/2021 at 13:15 0 comments

    One of the key features of BeeHive is its modular approach that helps find the right tool for the right job.
    The heart of the system is a main hub which is based on ESP32 microcontroller. The main hub has in total 16 connectors .

    These connectors are:
    - 8 digital general-purpose connectors
    - 3 analog connectors
    - 2 I2C connectors
    - 1 UART connector
    - 2 12V5A connectors

    The main hub utilises a number of designated modules to complete a given objective. Right now, these boards are at user's disposal:

    12V5A breakoutA 12V5A breakout is a simple way of having additional supply of 12V for your system which can be distributed as needed. For example, 12V may be used for solenoid driver board or it can be step down to 5V with 5V3A power supply.
    12V to 24V boost converterA 12V to 24V boost converter is a standalone board for having a conversion of 12V to 24V.
    4 and 8 transistor switch arrays4 and 8 transistor switch arrays are used in cases when user needs a generic board to switch things on/off, for example a low powered LED. 8 switch array is based on 74HC595 shift array which allows to effectively control up to 8 devices.
    universal high load driverA universal high load driver is a classic H-bridge layout that can be used for heating up a Peltier element or driving low-powered motors.
    gas sensorA gas sensor board is built around MQ-6 gas sensor and can be used in any situation when the level of gas should be monitored
    high power LED transistor switch arrayA high power LED switch employs MOSFETs transistors to drive LED or any other devices that cannot be driven by 4 and 8 switch arrays due to their power ratings.
    humidity and temperature sensorA humidity and temperature sensor board is designed around DHT11 and DHT22 sensors and may use any. 
    IR sensor and IR LED boardAn IR sensor and IR LED board is designed to work with 5 IR LEDs and register each of them independently via 5 IR phototransistors.
    3.3V to 5V bidirectional level shifterA 3.3V to 5V bidirectional level shifter is a board that can be used in cases when logic levels need to be matched.
    standalone 12V5A to 5V3A power supplyA 12V5A to 5V3A power supply step down 12V from the main board OR from the 12V5A breakout to 5V and distributes it to 4 connectors. Pairs with switch arrays.
    solenoid driver boardA solenoid driver board is using so-called "spike and hold" method to drive solenoids in a highly effective manner.

    Check out our Wiki to learn more.

  • 2 Alternative Choice Test

    Andre Maia Chagas08/17/2021 at 23:19 0 comments

    One of the applications for BeeHive is to control a behavioural task for rodents where animals watch two computer monitors and have to tell via behavioural responses which monitor was presenting an image.

    If the animal makes the correct choice, the systems delivers a small amount of liquid reward to the animal.

    The task control is done with BeeHive, which also sends synchronisation signals to the microscope used to observe the animal's brain activity.

    This application is being documented on Github:

    The behavioural part of the system is composed of:

    • Beehive main board
    • DAC add on to encode signals to microscope DAQ
    • Solenoid drivers to control water delivery
    • H-bridge to control linear actuator
    • OpAmps to get vibration signal from piezo elements (attached to licking spouts)
    • Logic Level converter to allow communication between BeeHive (3.3v) and other electronics in the microscope (5v)

  • Inline heater

    Andre Maia Chagas08/10/2021 at 12:02 0 comments

    Inline heaters are used in labs to warm up solutions as they are passing through a system, normally close to where they will be used. This way there is better control of the solution temperature at its use point.

    We are using beeHive and off-the-shelf components to build an inline heater capable of heating solutions to physiological levels (20-50 degrees Celsius).

    Documentation for the inline heater can be found here:

    The system is composed of:

    • Beehive main board
    • Temperature breakout board
    • H-bridge
    • nichrome wire as a heating source
    • 12V power supply
    • Stainless steel or glass tubing

  • Incubator

    Andre Maia Chagas08/10/2021 at 11:57 0 comments

    Incubators are used in many different labs, in many different research fields.

    Primarily used to keep their internal space at a set temperature, different models also control humidity, concentrations of different gases and lighting levels.

    We are using beeHive and off-the-shelf components to build an incubator that will control temperature and light levels.

    The incubator documentation can be found here:

    The system is composed of:

    • Beehive main board
    • LCD screen for user feedback
    • Temperature breakout board
    • H-bridge
    • peltier element and cooling fans
    • Fan to create airflow
    • LED strip to control internal lighting
    • 12V power supply
    • Ice box as the main body

  • 5 choice serial reaction time task

    Andre Maia Chagas08/06/2021 at 17:09 0 comments

    One of the applications for BeeHive is to control a behavioural box for rodents. The first task the system will be controlling is called "5 choice serial reaction time task".

    This application is being documented on Github:

    this task consists of five ports, where mice can put their heads in. Each port has an IR beam, which is used to detect a head entry. at the back of each port, there is a white LED, which indicates to the animals, which port they should visit.

    once the animal makes a correct visit (that is, puts its head inside a port that has a back LED turned on), a pellet dispenser gives some food to the animal.

    This setup allows researchers to assess the reaction time of the mice in different ages, and in different conditions (night time X daytime, animals that show initial stages of cognitive decline X healthy animals, etc).

    Data from each session is transmitted to a PC on the fly (via serial or WiFi) for posterior data analysis.

    At the moment, we are running the first steps to implement this task, using MakerBeams for the box structure and plexiglass for its walls. The parts that the animals will interact with (ports, feeder etc) are 3D printed. 

    Here are some photos of the initial build up:

View all 5 project logs

Enjoy this project?



Similar Projects

Does this project spark your interest?

Become a member to follow this project and never miss any updates