Focusing on the evolution of lab automation

    RS-400 multiple pump flow chemistry system

    The current state of lab automation and its future direction has been brought into focus in a preprint article by the Cambridge Centre for Computational Chemical Engineering (University of Cambridge) entitled “From Platform to Knowledge Graph: Evolution of Laboratory Automation” [1].

    The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0 conceptualizes a rapid change to technology, industries and societal patterns and processes in the 21st century due to increasing interconnectivity and smart automation [2].

    Citing and referencing Vapourtec, the article reviews the current state-of-the-art of Industry 4.0* and closed-loop optimisation within different chemical platforms as well as envisioning a pathway towards the standardisation of chemistry digitisation.

    The article’s authors explained: “Laboratory automation involves linking the abstract concepts of chemical processes and the hardware responsible for the execution. This presents the opportunity to deliver a significant level of decarbonisation with reduced labour and energy consumption, making the digitalisation of chemical manufacturing one of the critical technology paths towards a more sustainable society.

    “Vapourtec delivers an automated flow reaction platform with multiple choices for pumps and flow reactors. Successful examples of using the Vapourtec system in the closed-loop optimisation setup include drug discovery, scale-up development and reaction condition optimisation.”

    Echoing those words, Vapourtec Operations Manager Chris Butters is quoted in the article.

    Chris commented: “Vapourtec has been at the forefront of self-optimised flow chemistry platforms for the past decade. From our perspective it’s clear what the lab of the future would look like, incorporating a continuous flow platform controlled by a machine learning algorithm that would optimise chemical reactions.

    “The advantages of working with ourselves is that the user can buy an off-the-shelf flow chemistry system and, combining it with our applications programming interface (API), can hand full control of the Vapourtec system to a machine learning algorithm.

    “The R-Series API allows, via OPC-UA, the control of an R-Series by an algorithm-based software package. The machine-learning algorithm will plan and input reaction conditions based on previous results whilst the R-Series executes those reactions via the versatile R-Series software or by simply controlling the modules directly. With the API any reactor parameter can be controlled, stoichiometry, temperature, residence time or even UV intensity can be finetuned until the process is optimised.

    “We continuously work closely with key experts, such as the team at the University of Cambridge, to ensure our flow platforms are the most flexible and user-friendly,” added Chris.



    [1] J. Bai, L. Cao, S. Mosbach, J. Akroyd, A. A. Lapkin, and M. Kraft, “From Platform to Knowledge Graph: Evolution of Laboratory Automation,” 2021.



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