Advanced Mass Spectrometry Kit for Controlling Chemical Robots and Exploring Complex Chemical Systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Chemistry


We will use this kit to help us establish a world leading and unique capability for exploring real-time feedback control driven by very high resolution MS in the area of chemical cybernetics / chemical robotics. The emerging field of Chemical Cybernetics aims to build upon existing expertise in chemical robotics, complex networks, supramolecular self-assembly and automation, combined with newly available state-of-the-art chromatographic and mass spectrometric techniques to drive feedback control and artificial intelligence in complex chemical systems. The equipment requested in this proposal will allow the construction of a truly unique platform where advanced spectrometric techniques, usually only seen in metabolomics, are applied to chemical problems of low-abundance analyte identification and differentiation of complex mixtures over a broad spectrum of research, from optimisation of automated synthesis for a 'dial-a-molecule' devices to sequence specification in origins of life research to manufacturing and chemical discovery.

Planned Impact

We aim to enable our advanced mass spec kit for chemical robotic control to be adopted not only by other researchers and academics, but to transform the current world of chemistry by embracing digital technology and our developments in configurable chemical-robotic platforms for the discovery, optimisation, scale-up and control of chemistry. The outputs which will be made possible by the new platform will create also impacts in advanced proteomics, biopharma and metabolomics applications, including quantitation using isobaric tags, low level PTM analysis, data independent acquisition (DIA), and top down proteomics.

The Cronin group is also engaged with a number of industrial collaborators through our EPSRC programme grant and we will use these collaborations to help explore the use of the new kit and the robotic interface to problems set by our industrial collaborators.


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Description We have shown it is possible to use mass spec to explore and rank the complexity or information content of small molecules and use this to build a calibration curve for our PATH life detection system (PATH = pathway assembly technosignature heuristic]
Exploitation Route NASA are using our findings to build new types of space probe for life detection. BreakthroughPrize are designing a space mission to Europa for life detection using mass spec.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description We are using the kit to help develop a new life detection system to be used in conjunction with NASA and BreakthroughPrize to plan a space mission to search for life in the outer solar system.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Healthcare
Impact Types Cultural,Societal