Scientists have developed a computer system that can analyze a sample of chemical waste and create routes to synthesize new and useful chemicals. The paper was published in the journal Nature. Scientists described the work that went into creating the system and how well it worked when they tested it by synthesizing chemicals from waste samples.
The chemical industry generates an enormous amount of waste and the manufacture of products like pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and fertilizers produce waste products consisting of a large number of molecules. Chemists have long sought what they describe as “circular chemistry“. There the waste created by one process is used as base material to create other products. But scientists also noted that finding a way to do it is problematic.
They point out that even a waste sample with a small number of molecules can generate millions of routes toward the creation of a new product. Scientists used a computer system designed to understand the intricacies of complicated entities based on single samples. The original platform was developed by a team at a company called Alchemy, based in Indiana. It has been used in the past to determine what sorts of signatures could indicate life on other planets.
Scientists worked to add more intelligence to the original platform to give it a better understanding of the processes involved in synthesizing new compounds based on a single sample mix of chemicals. They developed a system that was capable of generating the routes required to synthesize approximately 300 drugs currently used in medicine, such as carvedilol and salbutamol, from a waste product with over 200 compounds.