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Robot chemist discovers new molecules

Robot chemist uses AI to discover new molecules

A robotic system which makes use of artificial intelligence (AI) to learn from chemical reactions and discover new molecules has been developed.

The system – developed by chemists at the University of Glasgow – could reduce the cost of finding new molecules to use in new drug developments and chemical products.

The robot chemist uses AI and machine-learning to perform autonomous investigations on many reactions between substances. It initially works with a human chemist to learn from their expertise about how to identify a discovery. Then the AI takes over and the robot predicts which experiments to do next.

Until now, the process by which new molecules are discovered by human chemists, has been time-consuming and unpredictable, as well as constrained by human limitations and procedures. The hope is that the results of this research may help reduce the cost of finding new molecules by speeding up the process of discovery.

These new molecules could be used for the development of new drugs and chemical products including materials and polymers, as well as use in high tech applications like imaging.

The team, led by Professor Lee Cronin, the University of Glasgow's Regius Chair of Chemistry, tested the system by combining 18 different chemicals, to create around 1000 reactions for further exploration by the robot.

The project was part funded by UK Research and Innovation’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the European Research Council.

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Further information

Read more on the EPSRC website