A robotic prebiotic chemist probes long term reactions of complexifying mixtures

#artificialintelligence 

To experimentally test hypotheses about the emergence of living systems from abiotic chemistry, researchers need to be able to run intelligent, automated, and long-term experiments to explore chemical space. Here we report a robotic prebiotic chemist equipped with an automatic sensor system designed for long-term chemical experiments exploring unconstrained multicomponent reactions, which can run autonomously over long periods. The system collects mass spectrometry data from over 10 experiments, with 60 to 150 algorithmically controlled cycles per experiment, running continuously for over 4 weeks. We show that the robot can discover the production of high complexity molecules from simple precursors, as well as deal with the vast amount of data produced by a recursive and unconstrained experiment. This approach represents what we believe to be a necessary step towards the design of new types of Origin of Life experiments that allow testable hypotheses for the emergence of life from prebiotic chemistry. The transition of prebiotic chemistry to present-day chemistry lasted a very long period of time, but the current laboratory investigations of this process are mostly limited to a couple of days. Here, the authors develop a fully automated robotic prebiotic chemist designed for long-term chemical experiments exploring unconstrained multicomponent reactions, which can run autonomously and uses simple chemical inputs.

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