Words and phrases such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics are associated with cutting-edge scientific and technological development. But how can they be applied to chemistry?
In his Editorial in Angewandte Chemie, Steven V. Ley, University of Cambridge, UK, explains how the need for more and more functional molecules means that cumbersome batch processes are rapidly being replaced by smart, self-optimizing platforms. Chemical synthesis has previously tended to rely heavily on robust labour‐intensive processes. However, he thinks that replacing a human bench chemist with a machine is impossible, but what can be achieved is the use of newly developed equipment and concepts to advance our knowledge.
Automation does not mean replacing humans, but rather that machines will help us in the decision-making process. This way humans will not have to carry out routine and labor-intensive operations, and can work side-by-side with machines. A machine-assisted approach gives people more time to actually make discoveries. Like a collaborative research project, a holistic systems approach is required to bring together the chemical, engineering, and informatics know-how.
- The Engineering of Chemical Synthesis: Humans and Machines Working in Harmony,
Steven V. Ley,
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2018.