/Meet the Autonomous Lab of the Future

Meet the Autonomous Lab of the Future

Key idea:  To accelerate development of useful new materials, researchers are building a new kind of automated lab that uses robots guided by artificial intelligence. 

Original author and publication date: Lauren Biron (Berkeley Lab) – April 17, 2023

Futurizonte Editor’s Note: If the lab is run by robots and by AI, what they could develop that we, humans, won’t be able to control or stop?

From the article:   

“Our vision is using AI to discover the materials of the future,” said Yan Zeng, a staff scientist leading the A-Lab at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). The “A” in A-Lab is deliberately ambiguous, standing for artificial intelligence (AI), automated, accelerated, and abstracted, among others.

Scientists have computationally predicted hundreds of thousands of novel materials that could be promising for new technologies – but testing to see whether any of those materials can be made in reality is a slow process. Enter A-Lab, which can process 50 to 100 times as many samples as a human every day and use AI to quickly pursue promising finds.

A-Lab could help identify and fast-track materials for several research areas, such as solar cells, fuel cells, thermoelectrics (materials that generate energy from temperature differences), and other clean energy technologies. To start, researchers will focus on finding new materials for batteries and energy storage, addressing critical needs for an affordable, equitable, and sustainable energy supply.

“Some people might compare our setup with manufacturing, where automation has been used for a long time,” Zeng said.

“What I think is exciting here is we’ve adapted to a research environment, where we never know the outcome until the material is produced. The whole setup is adaptive, so it can handle the changing research environment as opposed to always doing the same thing.”

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