Jump to main content
Jump to site search

Issue 44, 2020
Previous Article Next Article

Digitising chemical synthesis in automated and robotic flow

Author affiliations


Continuous flow chemical synthesis is already known to have many attributes that give it superiority over batch processes in several respects. To expand these advantages with those from automation will only drive such enabling technologies further into the faster producing, more efficient 21st century chemical world. In this report we present several examples of algorithmic chemical search, along with flow platforms that link hardware and digital chemical operations on software. This enables organic syntheses to be automatically carried out and optimised with as little human intervention as possible. By applying such enabling technologies to the production of small organic molecules and pharmaceutical compounds in end-to-end multistep processes, a range of reaction types can be accessed and, thus, the flexibility of these single, compact flow designs may be revealed. Automated systems can allow several reactions to take place on the same setup, enabling direct comparison of reactions under different conditions. Moreover, the production of new and known target compounds can be made faster and more efficient, the recipes of which can then be stored as digital files. Some of the automating software has employed machine-powered learning to assist the chemist in developing intelligent algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) driven synthetic route planning. This ultimately produces a continuous flow platform that can design its own viable pathway to a particular molecule and then carry it out on its own, allowing the chemists, at the same time, to apply their expertise to other pressing challenges in their fields.

Graphical abstract: Digitising chemical synthesis in automated and robotic flow

Back to tab navigation

Article information

03 Aug 2020
07 Oct 2020
First published
07 Oct 2020

This article is Open Access
All publication charges for this article have been paid for by the Royal Society of Chemistry

Chem. Sci., 2020,11, 11973-11988
Article type

Digitising chemical synthesis in automated and robotic flow

T. Hardwick and N. Ahmed, Chem. Sci., 2020, 11, 11973
DOI: 10.1039/D0SC04250A

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported Licence. Material from this article can be used in other publications provided that the correct acknowledgement is given with the reproduced material and it is not used for commercial purposes.

Reproduced material should be attributed as follows:

  • For reproduction of material from NJC:
    [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) on behalf of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the RSC.
  • For reproduction of material from PCCP:
    [Original citation] - Published by the PCCP Owner Societies.
  • For reproduction of material from PPS:
    [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) on behalf of the European Society for Photobiology, the European Photochemistry Association, and RSC.
  • For reproduction of material from all other RSC journals:
    [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry.

Information about reproducing material from RSC articles with different licences is available on our Permission Requests page.

Social activity

Search articles by author