Review of Low-cost Self-driving Laboratories: The "Frugal Twin" Concept

08 September 2023, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


This review proposes the concept of a “frugal twin,” similar to a digital twin, but for physical experiments. Frugal twins range from simple toy examples to low-cost surrogates of high-cost research. For example, a color-mixing self-driving laboratory (SDL) is a low-cost version of a costly multi-step chemical discovery SDL. We need frugal twins because they provide hands-on experience, a test bed for software prototyping (e.g., optimization, data infrastructure), and a low barrier to entry for democratizing SDLs. However, there is room for improvement. The true value of frugal twins can be realized in three core areas. Firstly, hardware and software modularity, secondly, purpose-built design (human-inspired vs. hardware-centric vs. human-in-the-loop), and thirdly state-of-the-art (SOTA) software (e.g., multi-fidelity optimization). We also describe the ethical benefits and risks that come with the democratization of science through frugal twins. In future work, we suggest ideas for new frugal twins, SDL educational course outcomes, and a classification scheme for autonomy levels.


Lab of the future
Machine Learning


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