The Molecular Industrial Revolution: Automated Synthesis of Small Molecules

Melanie Trobe, Martin D. Burke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Today we are poised for a transition from the highly customized crafting of specific molecular targets by hand to the increasingly general and automated assembly of different types of molecules with the push of a button. Creating machines that are capable of making many different types of small molecules on demand, akin to that which has been achieved on the macroscale with 3D printers, is challenging. Yet important progress is being made toward this objective with two complementary approaches: 1) Automation of customized synthesis routes to different targets by machines that enable the use of many reactions and starting materials, and 2) automation of generalized platforms that make many different targets using common coupling chemistry and building blocks. Continued progress in these directions has the potential to shift the bottleneck in molecular innovation from synthesis to imagination, and thereby help drive a new industrial revolution on the molecular scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4192-4214
Number of pages23
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 9 2018


  • artificial intelligence
  • flow chemistry
  • iterative synthesis
  • machine learning
  • small molecules

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry


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