Combinatorial Materials Research Laboratory (CMRL)

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Overview of Combinatorial Science

North Dakota State University - with sponsorship from the Office of Naval Research - has developed a unique Combinatorial and High Throughput experimentation facility focused on the development of organic polymers and protective coatings.

The Combinatorial and High Throughput approach to materials development uses automated methods to prepare and screen hundreds of polymers and coatings. Arrays of materials of differing compositions called libraries are prepared and screened for key properties. Since many more compounds and formulations can be explored simultaneously, this method greatly accelerates the process of new material discovery. In addition, information about the relationship between composition and performance can be obtained.

NDSU's core instrumentation, developed by Symyx® Technologies, Inc., includes a complete suite of software tools for experiment design, equipment operation, data storage, and database retrieval and analysis. All libraries are bar-coded so they can be tracked as they move from tool to tool.

Combinatorial or high throughput experimentation is based upon the concept of a workflow, as shown in the diagram. The workflow is a series of process steps taken during the course of an experiment starting with experiment design and ending with modeling of the data.

Each process within the workflow is designed to accommodate regular arrays of miniaturized samples referred to as libraries.  Libraries typically contain 24, 48, or 96 samples derived from materials quantities of 1-8 millililters per sample.  A centralized database is used to track samples and store data for efficient data management.

The libraries are evaluated using unique rapid analytical or testing methods to identify promising material candidates referred to as hits. Hits are used as the basis of further experimentation or scaled-up to laboratory scale to validate performance and generate additional performance data.