The Lab of the Future – The importance of remote monitoring and control


*Corresponding author
University of Cambridge, Innovative Technology Centre (ACS), Department of Chemistry, Lensfield Road, Cambridge, CB2 1EW, United Kingdom


Chemical laboratories and the equipment within them have changed very little over the last two centuries. However, the introduction of enabling technologies and their impact on current working practices is starting to redefine the laboratory environment. In this article the application of remote control software applied to real applications of flow-based synthesis are demonstrated and the related improvements in efficiency and safety discussed. The use of webcams to remotely monitor synthetic procedures is described along with the associated enhancements that can be achieved. We envisage that the integration of these techniques with portable devices such as mobile telephones will form part of the lab of the future.


The demands and expectations of modern organic synthesis to deliver new innovative products to the community are immense. Whilst the knowledge and methods used by synthetic chemists have advanced at a phenomenal pace the general laboratory architectures and tools of the trade have, by comparison, changed very little. For example, much of the glassware, flasks, condensers and separating funnels that are in common usage today would have been found in laboratories going back over two centuries. Likewise, laboratories are still constructed on the same basic design comprising of work benches, associated areas for equipment and fume cupboards to vent obnoxious materials. Nevertheless, the safety, working conditions and analytical capabilities invested in modern laboratories has improved vastly over their early counterparts.
Advances in automation and other synthesis enabling technologies are already significantly impacting on the way we conduct science (1). As a result the working regimes and work flows that are being determined by these new practices necessitate fundamental changes to the physical infrastructure and resource allocation ne ...