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Semi-supervised machine-learning classification of materials synthesis procedures

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Digitizing large collections of scientific literature can enable new informatics approaches for scientific analysis and meta-analysis. However, most content in the scientific literature is locked-up in written natural language, which is difficult to parse into databases using explicitly hard-coded classification rules. In this work, we demonstrate a semi-supervised machine-learning method to classify inorganic materials synthesis procedures from written natural language. Without any human input, latent Dirichlet allocation can cluster keywords into topics corresponding to specific experimental materials synthesis steps, such as “grinding” and “heating”, “dissolving” and “centrifuging”, etc. Guided by a modest amount of annotation, a random forest classifier can then associate these steps with different categories of materials synthesis, such as solid-state or hydrothermal synthesis. Finally, we show that a Markov chain representation of the order of experimental steps accurately reconstructs a flowchart of possible synthesis procedures. Our machine-learning approach enables a scalable approach to unlock the large amount of inorganic materials synthesis information from the literature and to process it into a standardized, machine-readable database.

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