Benefits of a Digital Lab: You Don’t Need Supercomputer for Research and Innovation

ELN, Petrochemicals

digital lab
Transfer many of the time-consuming processes in your lab to your computer with a digital lab.
Image Source: Flickr user Patrick Finnegan

I was visiting with an elderly friend of mine this past week, and as my two young children ran through her house like pint-sized tornadoes, she smiled nostalgically and told me to enjoy this stage because it only gets harder (can you imagine!?). We then got into a discussion of how teenagers naively think they know more than their parents. Unexpectedly, she looked at me and says, “Well, nowadays, if a teenager told me they were smarter than me, they’d be right!”

She then went on to say how this age of computers has opened the door to such large amounts of information and new capabilities that there’s no way she could keep up. Of course, I’m a little old-fashioned and felt indignant that she thought a 13-year old could know more than a woman who has lived through eight decades on this Earth. But the more I thought about it, I realized she might be right (how’s that for a little coming-of-age irony?).

Computers have revolutionized our lives and can even revolutionize our labs. The best approach to realizing the full potential of computers is to let them replace time-consuming, labor-intensive processes. That’s just what scientists at the University of Minnesota have done in an effort to streamline their investigation into identifying zeolites that can potentially improve petrochemical and biofuel processing. Zeolites are widely used as catalysts in the petrochemical industry to drive chemical reactions. Labs are interested in determining which of the hundreds of thousands predicted zeolite variations are the best match for petrochemical processing.

However, with so many variations possible, it could take human brains and hands decades to lay the preliminary groundwork. Fortunately, researchers were able to use a supercomputer at Argonne National Laboratory to perform simulations and squeeze decades of work into one day. With the help of the supercomputer, the scientists were able to identify zeolites capable of improving the multi-step ethanol purification process as wells as others that show promise in improving the dewaxing process in petrochemical processing.

The Value of a Digital Lab

Even if you don’t have access to supercomputers, your researchers can still benefit from a digital lab. An electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) can take over many of the time-consuming processes in your lab to help improve efficiency and save time. Take a look at some of the “super” features you can take advantage of with an ELN:

Digital notebook entries

It may seem obvious that an ELN would have digital entries. But the term “digital” is so much more comprehensive than one may realize. Not only can users create a dated digital notebook entry, but they can also take advantage of productivity features like experiment cloning, templates and access to frequently used protocols. Users also have the ability to attach images, data files, pdfs and other file types to entries so that all relevant information is available in one location.

Big data management

Consider once more the zeolite project out of the University of Minnesota. Can you imagine the data overload those scientists had at the end of their supercomputing? No one would want to have to print out all those data files and tape them in a paper notebook. With digital lab tools, like an ELN, one could easily store the files in a project with a simple digital data transfer.

Data sharing

I would imagine that the zeolite project is not being handled by a lone grad student flipping through thousands of pages of data. Rather, a large team of scientists is chipping away at their designated piles of data to see which materials show the most promise. An ELN promotes data sharing and provides a central digital location where users can exchange ideas and annotate entries.

A digital lab can revolutionize the way you perform research by helping you save time and improve your access to data. Visit our website to learn more about how the BIOVIA Notebook can support your computing needs.

One thought on “Benefits of a Digital Lab: You Don’t Need Supercomputer for Research and Innovation

  1. Data has become such a huge issue in so many fields because we have more data now than pretty much the rest of human history. Of course no human being can possibly handle all this data, and because of the every growing size of the databases without electronic organization it would be useless to us. I think electronic notebooks will be the only notebooks in the future.. There’s just no other way to make all the information available to us useful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *