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Autonomous Formulation Lab (AFL)

Autonomous experiment cycle with AFL

Autonomous experiment cycle with AFL

Credit: nSoft


The nSoft consortium is developing AFL to ultimately provide functions suitable for manual/programmed and autonomous measurements across multiple techniques and user facilities. Key neutron capabilities will be to automatically determine compositions for contrast matched samples, and determine multi-component phase maps for surfactant formulations.

Multiplatform Facility

  • Common approach for industrial autonomous facilities
  • Neutron scattering central technique
  • Orthogonal data developed to refine complex, multiparameter models of neutron data

Customizable to application

  • Member-specific mixing, sample environment, and process parameters
  • Interoperable data formats
  • All operations and data modeling automated

Scheduling and Process Control

  • Consistent, modular sample environment, data handling, and server software across platforms
    • Common server framework
    • Auto-discovery of component functionality
  • Scheduling with component queues
    • Run multiple instruments simultaneously or in series

Autonomous Measurements

  • Contrast matched component determination
  • Phase compositions for complex formulations

Milestones achieved during the unexpected outage

  • Within three weeks of the incident, the AFL was relocated to MML's liquid-metal SAXS system, including the design of a new sample cell, software interfacing, and first measurements.  With continuous instrument access the AFL has run as long as 5 weeks uninterrupted, automatically preparing and measuring hundreds of discrete samples
  • The AFL travelled to the CHESS synchrotron where we measured hundreds of compositions across several systems relevant to nSoft members and tested the feasibility of new operating modes
  • Additional measurement modalities have been prototyped to lay the groundwork for multimodal data integration, including spectroscopy, rheology, and optical imaging
  • The liquid sample loading platform has been completely redesigned and is expected to realize a ~50x decrease in sample loading cycle times with reduced potential for fouling and inter-sample crossover
  • Designed a web-based control dashboard for the AFL (Elizabeth Perez, an MC-Intern)
  • Designed a sample metadata tracking database for the AFL (SHIP student Aaron Tian)
  • The AFL team has had productive conversations with many neutron and X-ray peer facilities about beam-time, collaborations, and other long-term access models. These conversations are laying the groundwork for activities that will occur during the cold souorce upgrade







Created January 6, 2022, Updated March 21, 2022