Berkeley Lab achieves 100x synthesis throughput boost with Labman

Discover how Labman's system has been instrumental in this groundbreaking automated lab in California.
5 min read
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Yan ZengMaterials Staff Scientist, Berkeley Lab
With over 150,000 new materials predicted by the Materials Project computers, Berkeley Lab, based in California, simply couldn’t synthesise the novel materials quick enough to test them for real-world use.
Berkeley Lab reached out to Labman to develop an entirely bespoke system to synthesise the materials in an automated, 24/7 operation pattern, driven by AI predictions for successful synthesis conditions and material composition.
The difference this Labman technology has made to the project is night and day. Synthesising the postulated materials, a process that would have taken scientists a day or so to accomplish, can now completed in a safe and repeatable way by the system in less than an hour.


Increase in throughputCompared to humans having to manually synthesise materials.


Novel predicted compounds produced in first month.A huge leap forward in throughput from traditional manual techniques.

Labman’s customers sit at the very forefront of research in many areas of science, but especially in the realm of material science and formulation. The task of manually having to synthesise 150,000 novel materials postulated by AI was a daunting one for the team at Berkeley Lab (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), CA.

With automation rapidly becoming a mainstay of many advanced laboratories around the world, the team turned to Labman to create a completely bespoke piece of technology that would allow them to tackle this immense challenge. With a vast array of experience in various types of powder handling, liquid dispensing, formulation and synthesise, Labman set to developing a high-throughput, robust system to meet the stringent requirements.

Handling over 200 different powder-based materials in a ‘hotel’ of dispensers, and based around a 6-axis robotic arm, the LBCS system is uniquely suited to creating unique formulations. Our mechanical, electrical and software engineers worked closely with the whole team at Berkeley Lab to ensure that we learnt everything we could about the process they wanted the system to run, and that it elevated their workflow, instead of hindering it in any way.

“The Labman team has been tremendously supportive and responsive throughout the whole project. I am grateful to work with Matt, Olly, Nick, and other team members at Labman to make and deliver our LBCS robot,” said Yan Zeng, a materials scientist who lead Berkeley Lab’s team on the project. “Labman has an open-minded attitude and great creativity with these talented and kind team members that I have not seen from another company.”

An operator using LBCS, the automated formulation system for Berkeley Lab.
"I have made more new compounds in the last 6 weeks than my whole career."
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Gerbrand CederFaculty Senior Scientist, LBNL Professor, UC Berkeley

With system commissioning and initial testing out of the way, Berkeley Lab’s team could really get to work on processing the 150,000 proposed formulations for novel materials that their systems had listed. And with speed and efficiency core motivations behind the technology, they were delighted with the performance and the resulting materials created. “I have made more new compounds in the last 6 weeks than my whole career,” stated Gerbrand Ceder, a world-renowned materials scientist now using the system.

robot arm behind some glass with an infra-red alarm
A robot arm carries samples around the system allowing for parallel processing.

The journey for Berkley Lab and the Material Project team is only just getting started with this exciting new technology opening up a world of possibilities. But it’s also the start of a wonderful relationship with Labman, who will provide support for the system, ensuring that the robot functions smoothly and efficiently for years to come. It also looks amazing, as Zeng notes, “the final product is very nicely made - not only in the technical aspects but also in the appearance.” Thanks Berkeley Lab, it’s an honour to work alongside you to enable your science.