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  • Robots Tune into Creative Molecule Format
    Prof Lee Cronin

Robots Tune into Creative Molecule Format

Oct 12 2020 Read 515 Times

Automatically turning words into molecules on demand will open up the digitisation of chemistry, according to researchers from the University of Glasgow who have been developing a ‘chemical processing unit’ – an affordable desktop-sized robot chemist capable of doing the repetitive and time-consuming work of creating chemicals. The team led by Professor Lee Cronin, claims it will lead to the creation of a vast online repository of downloadable recipes for important molecules including drugs.

They have developed the SynthReader programme that can automatically convert procedures for organic and inorganic chemical synthesis into simple instructions, before storing in a format the team call Chemical Description Language, or XDL, a new open source language for describing chemical and material synthesis.

The ChemIDE interface has been designed to integrate with any robotic chemist system allowing it, in principle, to read the XDL instructions and create the required chemicals. A paper(1) describes how the team used their system to scan scientific papers and produce 12 different molecules using their chemical processing unit, including the analgesic lidocaine, the Dess-Martin periodinane oxidation reagent and the fluorinating agent AlkylFluor.

Professor Cronin, Regius Professor of Chemistry at Glasgow, said: “What we’ve managed to do with the development of our ‘Chemical Spotify’ is something similar to ripping a compact disc into an MP3. We take information stored in a physical format, in this case a scientific paper and pull out all the data we need to create a digital file which can be played on any system, in this case any robot chemist, including our robotic system which is an order of magnitude lower cost than any other similar robot.

“We’re hoping that the system we’ve built will massively expand the capabilities of robot chemists and allow the creation of a huge database of molecules drawn from hundreds of years’ worth of scientific papers.”

More information online

1. ‘A universal system for digitization and automatic execution of the chemical synthesis literature’, published in Science.

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