Automatically Steering Experiments Toward Scientific Discovery

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Kevin Yager (front) and Masafumi Fukuto at Brookhaven Lab's National Synchrotron Light Source II, where they've been implementing a method of autonomous experimentation. In the popular view of traditional science, scientists are in the lab hovering over their experiments, micromanaging every little detail. For example, they may iteratively test a wide variety of material compositions, synthesis and processing protocols, and environmental conditions to see how these parameters influence material properties. In each iteration, they analyze the collected data, looking for patterns and relying on their scientific knowledge and intuition to select useful follow-on measurements. This manual approach consumes limited instrument time and the attention of human experts who could otherwise focus on the bigger picture.

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