Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • News & Views
  • Published:

Atomic-scale manufacturing

Single-molecule chemistry with a smart robot

Artificial intelligence is used to automate the synthesis of single molecules using the tip of a scanning probe microscope, as well as to extract chemical information from these reactions.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Autonomous SPM operation to synthesize a magnetic nanographene.


  1. Westermayr, J., Gilkes, J., Barrett, R. & Maurer, R. J. Nat. Comput. Sci. 3, 139–148 (2023).

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Vamathevan, J. et al. Nat. Rev. Drug Discov. 18, 463–477 (2019).

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  3. Butler, K. T., Davies, D. W., Cartwright, H., Isayev, O. & Walsh, A. Nature 559, 547–555 (2018).

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Ruiz Euler, H.-C. et al. Nat. Nanotechnol. 15, 992–998 (2020).

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Krull, A., Hirsch, P., Rother, C., Schiffrin, A. & Krull, C. Commun. Phys. 3, 54 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Rashidi, M. & Wolkow, R. A. ACS Nano 12, 5185–5189 (2018).

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Alldritt, B. et al. Sci. Adv. 6, eaay6913 (2020).

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  8. Su, J. et al. Nat. Synth. (2024).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Pavliček, N. & Gross, L. Nat. Rev. Chem. 1, 0005 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Drexler, K. E. Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology (Anchor, 1987).

  11. Drexler, K. E. Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation (John Wiley & Sons, 1992).

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to J. Michael Gottfried.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ruan, Z., Gottfried, J.M. Single-molecule chemistry with a smart robot. Nat. Synth 3, 424–425 (2024).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing