Powder X-ray diffraction (PXRD) is a key technique for the structural characterisation of solid-state materials, but compared with tasks such as liquid handling, its end-to-end automation is highly challenging. This is because coupling PXRD experiments with crystallisation comprises multiple solid handling steps that include sample recovery, sample preparation by grinding, sample mounting and, finally, collection of X-ray diffraction data. Each of these steps has individual technical challenges from an automation perspective, and hence no commercial instrument exists that can grow crystals, process them into a powder, mount them in a diffractometer, and collect PXRD data in an autonomous, closed-loop way. Here we present an automated robotic workflow to carry out autonomous PXRD experiments. The PXRD data collected for polymorphs of small organic compounds is comparable to that collected under the same conditions manually. Beyond accelerating PXRD experiments, this workflow involves 13 component steps and integrates three different types of robots, each from a separate supplier, illustrating the power of flexible, modular automation in complex, multitask laboratories.

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Powder-Bot: A Modular Autonomous Multi-Robot Workflow for Powder X-Ray Diffraction

Amy M. Lunt, Hatem Fakhruldeen, Gabriella Pizzuto, Louis Longley, Alexander White, Nicola Rankin, Rob Clowes, Ben M. Alston, Andrew I. Cooper and Samantha Y. Chong

Department of Chemistry and Materials Innovation Factory, University of Liverpool, L69 3BX, UK

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