AI aids development of materials with societal benefits

27 September 2021 | Muriel Cozier

‘We need new tools that reduce the time and effort required to discover truly new materials…’

A team of UK researchers at the University of Liverpool’s Department of Chemistry and Materials Innovation Factory have developed an AI tool which reduces the time required to discover new materials.  The Materials Innovation Factory, which was officially opened during 2018, was co-founded by Liverpool University and Unilever.

The work, led by Professor Matt Rosseinsky FRS, and reported in the journal Nature Communications has lead to the discovery of four new materials, including a new family of solid state materials, which will be key to the development of solid state batteries.

The team said that discovering new functional materials is high-risk and complex, as there are an infinite number of materials that can be created by combining elements in the periodic table. However, the new AI tool examines the relationships between known materials and these relationships are used to identify and numerically rank combinations of elements that are likely to form new materials. The researchers added that the rankings make experimental investigation more efficient.

Commenting, Professor Rosseinsky said that: ‘We need new tools that reduce the time and effort required to discover truly new materials, such as the one developed here that combines artificial intelligence and human intelligence to get the best of both.’ Professor Rosseinsky added: ‘This collaborative approach combines the ability of computers to look at the relationships between several hundred thousand known materials, a scale unattainable by humans, and the expert knowledge and critical thinking of human researchers that leads to creative advances.’

The researchers added that society’s ability to solve global challenges such as energy and sustainability is constrained by the capability to develop new materials with targeted functions.

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-25343-7

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