[ExI] Autonomous mobile robot chemist 1000 times faster than human

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Thu Jul 9 12:15:01 UTC 2020

Robot scientists have solved the biggest challenge in chemistry
Prepare to meet your new lab mate.   8 July 2020

Using laser scanning and touch feedback to navigate its surroundings
instead of vision, this robot has no need for a human-like face.
Likewise, instead of manipulating vials with precarious human arms or
moving around the lab on unstable human-like legs, this robot can
autonomously wheel itself around a lab and complete science
experiments using an incredibly sensitive and precise single arm.


What did it do? -- In this study, the robot was tasked with helping
scientists discover a new photocatalyst -- a chemical that when
exposed to sunlight would separate into hydrogen and water. These
catalysts are incredibly important for clean energy production because
they allow hydrogen to be collected without fossil fuel use. But
finding an optimized catalyst is like looking for a needle in a

Because the experiment space of this problem is so vast and would take
human researchers months to explore, the scientists used their robot
to do the same work in a little over a week. With parameters (such as
what chemicals would be used and what questions would be asked) set in
place by human researchers, the robot autonomously chose between 98
million different possible experiments and autonomously conducted them
in the lab to discover the optimized chemical substance for this
catalyst. And, after completing initial experiments, the robot was
also able to refine its discovery using five hypotheses to narrow in
even more on the most optimized formulae.

At the end of the process, the robot had discovered a new catalyst
that was six-times more reactive than those previously discovered.


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