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Structured Chemistry Reasoning with Large Language Models

Siru OuyangZhuosheng ZhangBing YanXuan LiuJiawei HanLianhui Qin
Nov 2023
This paper studies the problem of solving complex chemistry problems with large language models (LLMs). Despite the extensive general knowledge in LLMs (such as GPT-4), they struggle with chemistry reasoning that requires faithful grounded reasoning with diverse chemical knowledge and an integrative understanding of chemical interactions. We propose InstructChem, a new structured reasoning approach that substantially boosts the LLMs' chemical reasoning capabilities. InstructChem explicitly decomposes the reasoning into three critical phrases, including chemical formulae generation by LLMs that offers the basis for subsequent grounded reasoning, step-by-step reasoning that makes multi-step derivations with the identified formulae for a preliminary answer, and iterative review-and-refinement that steers LLMs to progressively revise the previous phases for increasing confidence, leading to the final high-confidence answer. We conduct extensive experiments on four different chemistry challenges, including quantum chemistry, quantum mechanics, physical chemistry, and chemistry kinetics. Our approach significantly enhances GPT-4 on chemistry reasoning, yielding an 8% average absolute improvement and a 30% peak improvement. We further use the generated reasoning by GPT-4 to fine-tune smaller LMs (e.g., Vicuna) and observe strong improvement of the smaller LMs. This validates our approach and enables LLMs to generate high-quality reasoning.
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