New Industrial Chemical Robot From IBM Set to Enable Latest Advancements in Lab Automation

October 02, 2020 by Damond Goodwin

IBM recently launched its RoboRXN, which utilizes cloud data and AI to advance materials technology.

IBM’s New RoboRXN

This robot is being used to revolutionize industrial chemistry in a number of ways. The software connects through a web browser in order to allow for easier application of RoboRXN. The complete system allows users to create new molecules remotely. 

IBM RoboRXN demonstrating its capabilities. Image courtesy of IBM.


The driver behind this new ROBORXN system is artificial intelligence. The combination of this AI and robotics are creating new chemicals and materials.


How Does RoboRXN Work?

RoboRXN works by combining the computing power of AI with the manufacturing power of traditional automation. One of the main innovations behind the project was to create a system that can treat organic chemistry with the same fundamental structure as a sentence. 

Atoms have the same function as letters, molecules are analogous to words, and chemical reactions are used as sentences.  

The structure of the technology consists of three different components. RoboRXN uses the cloud for data use and storage, AI for computational power and processing, and robotics/automation to implement the chemical reactions.  

With the new technology created by RoboRXN, users can log in through a web browser and draw a new molecule on the software. 


The user interface for the ROBORXN software. Image courtesy of IBM.


The molecule is accessed by this AI technology to find the optimal reaction to create the newly drawn molecule. After the optimal reaction is discovered, the data is sent to an autonomously run laboratory. The lab uses this AI to preprogram the process for creating the chemical, and the lab manufactures the new material.  

IBM was able to create data sets for many of the known reactions in existence. They used patents and other published material to create a data set that allows for accurate modeling of new reactions and materials. 

As more reactions are created and inputted through the system and into the cloud, modeling of chemical reactions will become more accurate.


AI, Cloud-Based Data, and Automation

IBM’s new RobotRXN allows users to advance materials technology at a faster rate than in the past. The combination of AI, cloud-based data, and automation, leads to the hopeful success of this robot's abilities. 

Traditionally, it takes 10 years and $10 million to create a new material. IBM hopes to greatly reduce both cost and time with RoboRXN.  


A graphic of the RoboRXN. Image courtesy of IBM.


New materials and chemical compounds are a driving force behind technological advancement. In addition, new ways of creating them will only help to make the process cheaper and more efficient. With shared data from patents and the new molecules being created, chemical modeling will advance along with the amount of information available to scientists on chemical reactions. 

Only time will tell what new discoveries come to light with the implementation of this technology, but it has brought new materials into the world of AI.