Robot chemist discovers new molecules and reactions

July 19, 2018, University of Glasgow
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A new type of artificial-intelligence-driven chemistry could revolutionise the way molecules are discovered, scientists claim.

In a new paper published today in the journal Nature, chemists from the University of Glasgow discuss how they have trained an artificially-intelligent organic chemical synthesis robot to automatically explore a very large number of .

Their 'self-driving' system, underpinned by machine learning algorithms, can find new reactions and molecules, allowing a digital-chemical data-driven approach to locating new molecules of interest, rather than being confined to a known database and the normal rules of organic synthesis.

The result could be a decreased cost for discovering new molecules for drugs, new chemical products including materials, polymers, and molecules for high tech applications like imaging.

The team demonstrated the system's potential by searching around 1000 reactions using combinations of 18 different starting chemicals. After exploring only around 100, or 10 percent, of the possible reactions, the robot was able to predict with over 80 percent accuracy which combinations of starting chemicals should be explored to create new reactions and molecules. By exploring these reactions, they discovered a range of previously unknown new molecules and reactions, with one of the reactions classed to within the top 1 percent of the most unique reactions known.

The approach was designed and developed by the team lead by Professor Leroy (Lee) Cronin, the University of Glasgow's Regius Chair of Chemistry. Professor Cronin and his team are convinced that this result will help pave the way for the digitisation of and developing new approaches to chemistry using a digital code which drives autonomous chemical robots.

Professor Cronin said: "This approach is a key step in the digitisation of chemistry, and will allow the real time searching of space leading to new discoveries of drugs, interesting with valuable applications, and cutting cost, time, and crucially improving safety, reducing waste, and helping chemistry enter a new digital era."

Explore further: Designer enzyme uses unnatural amino acid for catalysis

More information: Jarosław M. Granda et al. Controlling an organic synthesis robot with machine learning to search for new reactivity, Nature (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0307-8

Related Stories

Designer enzyme uses unnatural amino acid for catalysis

July 2, 2018

University of Groningen chemists have created a new enzyme with an unnatural amino acid as its active centre. They made the enzyme by modifying an antibiotic binding protein which normally acts as a bacterial transcription ...

UV laser photolyses to enhance diamond growth

January 25, 2018

Energy influences the rates of chemical reactions dramatically. Simply heating a gas-phase reaction system deposits energy indiscriminately in internal and translational motions of precursor and intermediate molecules.

Recommended for you

Transforming carbon dioxide

August 21, 2018

A team of researchers at the University of Delaware's Center for Catalytic Science and Technology (CCST) has discovered a novel two-step process to increase the efficiency of carbon dioxide (CO2) electrolysis, a chemical ...

Gut bacteria provide key to making universal blood

August 21, 2018

In January, raging storms caused medical emergencies along the U.S. East Coast, prompting the Red Cross to issue an urgent call for blood donations. The nation's blood supply was especially in need of O-type blood that can ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

betterexists
1 / 5 (1) Jul 19, 2018
How about identifying ALL molecules in 1 ml of Tissue Homogenate ?
Keep Going, For Species after Species !
They wasted time, counting the number of limbs of species, average beak length etc., for a couple of centuries.
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (1) Jul 24, 2018
be, since the explosion pf technology available for scientists to use? Each generation has been limited by the tools they had immediately available.

you are criticizing an enlightenment researcher who just learned how to grind glass to make a telescope. For not understanding the results modern scientists accomplished with a radio-telescope.

Sneering at the accomplishments of our predecessors for lacking our, present knowledge base? Will only get you ridiculed. Immediately.

You won't have to wait a century or so, for future TA's to smugly mock you for obvious state of ignorance.

If there is any comfort to be taken from this state of normal discourteous behavior? Is that those snotty TA's, will in their turn be mocked by the TA's in their future.

It is the unvarying Cycle of Higher Education.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.