Fully automated synthesis
Fully automated synthesis or automatic synthesis is a set of techniques that use robotic equipment to perform chemical synthesis in a fully automated way. Most tasks that are performed may include: synthesis in variety of different conditions, sample preparation, purification, extractions.
Automated synthesis systems find new applications with a development of new robotic platforms. Possible applications are: uncontrolled synthesis, time-dependent synthesis, radiosynthesis, synthesis in demanding conditions (low temperatures, presence of specific atmosphere like CO, H2, N2, high pressure or under vacuum) or whenever the same or similar workflow needs to be applied multiple times with the aim to: optimize reactions, synthesize many derivatives in small scale, perform reactions of iterative homologations or radiosynthesis. Automated synthesis workflows are needed both in academic research and a wide array of industrial R&D settings (pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, fine & specialty chemicals, renewables & energy research, catalysts, polymers, ceramics & abrasives, porous materials, nanomaterials, biomaterials, lubricants, paints & coatings, home care, personal care, nutrition, forensics).
One of the leading facilities in automated synthesis is Bristol Automated Synthesis Facility based at the University of Bristol (UK). Facility uses Chemspeed Technologies SWING platform available for automated parallel chemical synthesis, with capabilities including inert atmosphere, liquids and solids dispensing, temperature control from −70 °C to 120 °C, high pressure (up to 80 bar) and integrated solid-phase extraction with dedicated LC-MS off-line analysis.
There are a few producers of automated synthesis platforms. Best known are Chemspeed Technologies and Unchained Labs Feeslate.
Platforms use variety of tools in order to perform all operations needed in synthesis. Robotic arm uses dispensers and grippers to transfer materials. Shakers adjust the stirring speed. Conditions of reactions (atmosphere, temperature, pressure) are controlled with help of peripherals like: gas cylinders, vacuum pump, reflux system and cryostat.