The automation of organic synthesis will simplify what can be a capricious and inconsistent science that usually requires years of experience to perform confidently. Recent developments have seen more elaborate automated synthesis ‘machines’, including those with inbuilt synthetic route planning. However, the reactions that can be performed are still relatively simple and only linear sequences can be achieved. Here, Kerry Gilmore and colleagues report a radial synthesis instrument, in which each process funnels back through a central switching station. This allows both linear and convergent syntheses to be carried out, so substantially expands the molecules that can be made using the machine. The setup also requires no manual input when changing processes, which potentially allows simple optimization of a reaction for an untrained chemist. The synthesizer is showcased in the preparation of the anticonvulsant medication rufinamide and a series of derivatives, as well as metallaphotoredox C–N cross-couplings by addition of a photochemical module.
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