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Revolutionizing Material Synthesis: SmartDope’s Autonomous System for Accelerated Development of Quantum Dots

Crafting top-tier materials suitable for electronic and photonic devices typically demands years of concentrated laboratory efforts. However, researchers have recently pioneered an autonomous system capable of swiftly identifying optimal synthesis pathways for “best-in-class” materials tailored to specific applications, drastically reducing the time required to mere hours or days.

APA 7: TWs Editor & ChatGPT. (2023, November 14). Revolutionizing Material Synthesis: SmartDope’s Autonomous System for Accelerated Development of Quantum Dots. PerEXP Teamworks. [News Link]

A novel system, named SmartDope, has been created to tackle a persistent challenge associated with augmenting the properties of materials, particularly perovskite quantum dots, through a process known as “Doping.”

Milad Abolhasani, an associate professor of chemical engineering at North Carolina State University and the corresponding author of the paper titled “Smart Dope: A Self-Driving Fluidic Lab for Accelerated Development of Doped Perovskite Quantum Dots,” clarifies that doped quantum dots are semiconductor nanocrystals. These nanocrystals undergo a deliberate introduction of specific impurities, a process known as “Doping,” which precisely modifies their optical and physicochemical properties. The research has been published open access in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

According to Milad Abolhasani, these specific quantum dots are intriguing due to their potential applications in next-generation photovoltaic devices and other photonic and optoelectronic technologies. For instance, they hold the capability to enhance the efficiency of solar cells. This is attributed to their capacity to absorb UV light wavelengths, which traditional solar cells may not efficiently absorb, and convert them into wavelengths that solar cells can adeptly transform into electricity.

Despite the significant promise held by these materials, a hurdle has persisted in devising methods for synthesizing quantum dots of the utmost quality. The primary objective is to optimize their efficiency in converting UV light into the specific wavelengths of light desired for various applications.

Milad Abolhasani outlines the challenge they faced: determining the optimal doped quantum dot for a specific application. Traditional methods to answer this question could span a decade. To address this, they devised an autonomous lab, reducing the time required to answer the question to a matter of hours.

The SmartDope system operates as a “Self-driving” laboratory. Initially, researchers instruct SmartDope by specifying the precursor chemicals and providing a defined objective. In this study, the objective was to identify the doped perovskite quantum dot with the maximum “Quantum yield.” This term refers to the highest ratio of emitted photons (in the form of infrared or visible wavelengths of light) to absorbed photons (Via UV light).

After receiving the initial instructions, SmartDope independently initiates and conducts experiments. These experiments take place within a continuous flow reactor, utilizing minuscule amounts of chemicals. The reactor facilitates the rapid execution of quantum dot synthesis experiments, allowing the precursors to flow through the system and react with each other.

In each experiment, SmartDope adeptly adjusts a range of variables, including the proportions of each precursor material, the temperature during precursor mixing, and the duration of reaction time upon the introduction of new precursors. Additionally, SmartDope automatically assesses the optical properties of the quantum dots produced in each experiment as they exit the flow reactor.

Milad Abolhasani explains that as SmartDope accumulates data from each experiment, it employs machine learning to continually refine its comprehension of doped quantum dot synthesis chemistry. This iterative process guides SmartDope in selecting the most optimal experiment for generating the best possible quantum dot. The complete sequence of automated quantum dot synthesis within a flow reactor, characterization, machine learning model refinement, and subsequent experiment selection is termed closed-loop operation.

How effective is the performance of SmartDope?

Milad Abolhasani reports that the earlier highest quantum yield for this category of doped quantum dots was 130%, indicating the emission of 1.3 photons for every absorbed photon. Through SmartDope’s operations within a single day, the researchers identified a synthesis route for doped quantum dots that achieved a remarkable quantum yield of 158%. This substantial advancement, which could take years to discover using traditional methods, signifies the rapid identification of a best-in-class solution for this material.

Milad Abolhasani emphasizes the significance of autonomous laboratories employing flow reactors, underscoring their ability to swiftly uncover solutions in chemical and material sciences. He mentions ongoing efforts to advance this work and expresses openness to collaborations with industry partners.


  1. NEWSPAPER Shipman, M. & North Carolina State University. (2023, November 13). Autonomous lab discovers best-in-class quantum dot in hours. It would have taken humans years. []
  2. JOURNAL Bateni, F., Sadeghi, S., Orouji, N., Bennett, J. A., Punati, V. S., Stark, C., Wang, J., Rosko, M. C., Chen, O., Castellano, F. N., Reyes, K. G., & Abolhasani, M. (2023). Smart Dope: a Self‐Driving Fluidic Lab for accelerated development of doped perovskite quantum dots. Advanced Energy Materials. [Advanced Energy Materials]

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