Air Force Research Lab Develops Robotic Machine to Automate Material Research

Benji Maruyama

The Air Force Research Laboratory has developed a robotic machine to autonomously design, conduct and evaluate experimental data to aid materials research processes.

The U.S. Air Force said Saturday the Autonomous Research System brings together robotics, artificial intelligence and data science in efforts to complete up to 100 experiments per day.

Benji Maruyama, a senior materials research engineer at AFRL’s functional materials division, said ARES will not replace human researchers but aims to foster human-machine partnerships.

Maruyama’s team ran more than 600 experiments through ARES to determine conditions that could help achieve maximum growth rate for carbon nanotubes — materials that conduct heat and electricity, the Air Force said.

Scientists set the objective growth rate that ARES used to perform research.

Maruyama noted ARES is built to take over bench-level experiment processes such as instrument preparation, monitoring and cleaning to give researchers more time for “creative” thinking that can lead to discoveries.

Kevin Decker, a software engineer from science and technology company UES, collaborates with the ARES team in efforts to integrate generic research functions into ARES.

AFRL plans to use ARES for autonomous chemical and physical research in the future, the Air Force noted.

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