Created a robot scientist who chooses his own experiments and has already discovered a catalyst


J. J. Madrid Updated: Save Send news by mail electrónicoTu name *

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Human researchers should be fastened well to the chairs of their labs because they could be replaced by someone who comes stomping and never tires. This is a robot scientist mobile and smart created by researchers from the british University of Liverpool that can work 24-7, choosing and carrying out chemical experiments by themselves. Does it all and can do it all. It is so autonomous and efficient that it already have discovered it just a new catalyst.

The robot scientist, the first of its kind, makes its own decisions about what experiments to perform next. It has a size humanoid (measures 1.75 meters) and works in a standard laboratory, using instruments very similar to those of a human scientist. However, unlike a being of flesh and bone, this robot of 400 kg has, according to its creators, an infinite patience, you can think in 10 dimensions and works for 21,5 hours each day, stopping only to recharge its battery. Impossible to compete.

robots have been used before in chemical research, but are usually connected to an experiment-specific. This is mobile and you can wandering around the laboratory, to carry out a wide range of different tasks. Uses a combination of laser scanning, along with tactile feedback for positioning, in place of a vision system.

Almost 700 experiments in 8 days

In the first example posted, the robot performs 688 experiments for 8 days, working 172 of 192 hours. To do this, perform 319 movements, complete 6.500 manipulations and travels a total distance of 2.17 km, to Perform independently all tasks of an experiment, as though solid, to dispense liquid, remove air from the container, run the catalytic reaction and quantify the reaction products.

to carry out such work, the brain of the machine uses a search algorithm that allows you to navigate in a space of 10 dimensions, with more than 98 million experiments candidates, and decide on the best experiment to do next on the basis of the results of the previous. To do this, discovered independently a catalyst that is six times more active, without additional guidance from the research team.

“The biggest challenge was to make the system robust. To work autonomously for several days, doing thousands of manipulations delicate, the failure rate for each task needs to be very low. But once this is done, the robot makes many fewer errors than a human operator,” says the great “father” of the creature, Benjamin Burger, phd student at Liverpool, who built and programmed the robot.

“it Is a colleague with superpowers”

To the researchers, the new technology, which appears this week in the cover of the magazine “Nature”, could tackle problems of a scale and complexity that are currently out of our reach. For example, these autonomous robots could find materials for the clean energy production or new formulations of drugs through the search spaces of chemical vast and unexplored.

“Our strategy here was to automate the researcher in place of the instruments. This creates a level of flexibility that will change both the way we work and the problems that we can address. This is not just another machine in the lab: is a new member of the team with superpowers, and it frees up time for human researchers to think creatively,” says Andrew Cooper, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Factory of Innovation in Materials, of Liverpool, who led the project. At least, that part of creativity is still human.