Streamlining Data-Driven Chemicals and Materials Science Lab Experiments


In a previous blog, we explored how Chemicals and Materials companies all have similar needs around formula/components management, experiment planning, process capture, sample testing, and R&D data analysis. In this blog, we’ll explore how Dotmatics provides an end-to-end R&D platform that addresses all of these core needs, helping accelerate data-driven innovation.

Intricacy and Flexibility: The Two Keys to Supporting Chemicals and Materials Science Workflows

No matter what unique products Chemicals and Materials companies are developing, their researchers often follow a basic workflow: make materials; test those materials; decide which are most promising to pursue. But unlike some industries, where the detailed workflow steps and associated data are somewhat standardized, Chemicals and Material Science lab experiments and data types are at once incredibly complex and variable, even across different teams within a single company. As a result, companies often struggle to find an end-to-end R&D solution that has both the intricacy and flexibility needed to:

  • Record the specific ingredients and precise processes used to create a material. (Make)

  • Track samples through complex testing performed by different specialty groups. (Test)

  • Analyze formulation, process, and test data across projects and time to make strategic decisions (Decide)

Although it is incredibly challenging, capturing all R&D workflow data is necessary. Even small changes to the materials, recipe, process (or all three) can have important implications; recording the details of those changes is essential when teams are under pressure to quickly and efficiently design products that meet specific objectives. Without easy access to all their data, teams cannot apply the insights gleaned from previous work. The Dotmatics Chemicals and Materials Solution is the answer to this conundrum. It can manage the vast amounts of complex detail typical in most Chemicals and Materials workflows, while also offering the flexibility needed to support the high levels of variance also prevalent. By digitizing their labs with Dotmatics solutions, Chemicals and Materials teams can speed up innovation, streamline processes, collaborate more broadly across their departments, and ready themselves for leveraging AI in the future.

Accelerating the Make-Test-Decide Workflow with Dotmatics

In the following sections, we explore how Dotmatics facilitates each step of the Make-Test-Decide workflow, helping teams capture, share, and use their diverse R&D data to quickly create novel chemicals and materials that meet specific objectives.

Step 1: Make
Supporting material creation through ingredient and process management

If different Chemicals and Materials development teams were given the same ingredients to create a product, the results would probably vary widely. Why? Because in Chemicals and Materials research, it’s not just about the type and amount of ingredients used; it’s about how those ingredients were processed. Take yogurt, for example. Yes, all yogurts may have a milk and culture base, but what makes each unique is the supplemental ingredients (e.g.,  carrageenan, sucralose, citrate, stability regulators, flavorings) and the processing (e.g., how long was the culture aged, how long was the product stirred, at what speed, temperature, etcetera). Small variations can have a big impact on the final product’s taste, smell, or oral sensation—those subtle differences that can make or break a product, or lead a consumer to choose one product over another.

In order to decipher precisely which ingredient or process alterations are responsible for subtle yet potentially impactful product differences, research teams need to track an incredible amount of details. Those details vary widely depending on the product at hand (e.g., polymer, fertilizer, tire, battery, oil additive, milk product, flavoring, perfume, shampoo, lipstick, etcetera). Because of this, it has often been viewed as next-to-impossible to find a Chemicals and Materials R&D platform that can equally support high degrees of specificity and variance. It’s different with Dotmatics. Dotmatics can support the wide-ranging needs of teams creating vastly different chemical and materials products.

Below we describe some of the ways Dotmatics can help R&D teams streamline their product creation workflows.

Ingredient Management

  • Inventory Management:

    • Search and find ingredients

    • Track location and supply levels

    • Record audit trails

  • Ingredient Capture:

    • Record precise usage details

    • Capture batch, date, origin data, etc.

    • Require hazardous-material approval

    • Explore prior usage of specific ingredients

  • Pre-process Planning:

    • Check inventory supply for planned projects 

    • Measure differences between planned versus actual usage and track the impact

Process Management

  • Define step-by-step workflows

  • Capture granular details of how the ingredients were processed

  • Capture details for all equipment used

  • Create templates for easily replicating workflows and processes

  • Create check boxes to validate completion of required steps

  • Record deviations from defined processes and capture the impact of those changes

  • Minimize manual recording of process steps and results data

Step 2: Test
Marrying formulation and experiment planning with sample testing

Once chemicals or materials are created, they need to be tested. While tracking samples has traditionally fallen into the realm of LIMS, researchers are increasingly realizing that it is more efficient to track sample and test-result data using the same end-to-end R&D platform that was used to plan and execute their experiments.

Below we describe some of the ways Chemicals and Materials R&D teams have used Dotmatics to simplify the “test” portion of their Make-Test-Decide workflow.

Sample Tracking and Testing with Dotmatics

  • Use bar-code scanning to follow samples

  • Capture sample details and track exact location
    (e.g., batch, date, creator, lab, fridge, etcetera)

Order Tests

  • Facilitate test requests within same lab or at other specialty testing labs

  • Define test details and specifications (e.g., ISO requirements)

  • Support a wide range of test types, which vary based on product type; for example:

    • Foaming capacity of a hand lotion or soap

    • Coefficient of friction of a lubricant oil

    • Differential scanning calorimetry of a polymer

    • Capacitance of a battery

  • Support a range of result data types (from numeric measurements to descriptive text measurements)

  • Capture and tie-back result data to sample and experiment records

  • Use sample and test-result data in downstream experiments

Register Materials

  • Register virtually any type of chemical or material in a controlled and regimented way

Step 3: Decide
Leveraging data across projects and time to inform strategic decisions

Data-driven research hinges upon having a full picture of all R&D data across teams and time. This isn’t possible when data are difficult to access and share because they are locked in silos, or worst yet, they were never captured sufficiently to start. Dotmatics provides a data-centric R&D platform that prioritizes clean data capture and interoperability; as a result, researchers can more easily access, share, and use their data to drive better decisions.

Some of the ways Dotmatics has helped Chemicals and Materials teams achieve data-driven R&D are described below.

Search Complete Data

  • Establish a united data storage and sharing platform

  • Structure and standardize data for ease of search, as well as for machine-learning and AI-readiness

  • Search data using different parameters; for example:

    • find all projects with a specific formulated ingredient

    • retrieve all experiments that used a particular factant

    • view a specific sample’s full history and lineage, including test results and details around how it was made, when it was made, and who made it

  • Protect data with access controls

Leverage Existing Data

  • Share data across teams and divisions (with permission controls as needed)

    • For example, a company may have different teams developing polymers for very different applications. One team might have polymer-profile data that is potentially relevant to another team, even if they’re not directly collaborating.

  • Access historical R&D data

Collate and Juxtapose Data

  • Visualize data and customize views, for example:

    • chart and configure data in different ways using different parameters and graphing options

    • configure charts, such as by changing the axes or applying colors

  • Perform cross-analyses; for example:

    • compare current and past experiments

  • Tease out and compare different experiment details; for example:

    • gather specific data points across many experiments
      (e.g., differential scanning calorimetry)

    • identify test samples within that larger dataset that have the parameters or values of interest (e.g., what team is trying to what optimize for)

    • pull out data to visualize all together

    • scrutinize details and plan further experimentation

Learn More About Dotmatics Chemicals and Materials Solution

See how the Dotmatics Chemicals and Materials Solution empowers research teams to capture, share, and use all the R&D data coming from their highly detailed, yet widely variable, Make-Test-Decide workflows.

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