Integrating Robotics into Material Science

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While material research has allowed the development of clean energy technologies such as solar cells, low-energy semi-conductors, and advanced batteries, it is an extremely time-consuming process. Each new synthetic needs to be developed, run through simulation and tested before it can be released to the market. This is usually very expensive and can last up to 20 years.

Combining Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Material Science

In an attempt to speed up this process, researchers have begun investigating whether artificial intelligence and robotics can be used in conjunction with material science. This is known as the integrated Materials Acceleration Platforms and can cut the development time of advanced materials from 20 years to just 2.

This is a remarkable difference and has caused excitement in the material science and development community. A report entitled "Materials Acceleration Platform: Accelerating Advanced Energy Materials Discovery by Integrating High-Throughput Methods with Artificial Intelligence” published by the Expert Workshop in Mexico City in early 2018, shows the results of a 2017 workshop in which 55 leading scientists from around the globe discussed the challenges and research needs that relate to the development of new materials.

The workshop, sponsored by the Mexican Ministry of Energy (SENER), the U.S. Department of Energy, and CIFAR, is thought to have been an important and successful breakthrough for the Clean Energy Materials Innovation Challenge of the global initiative Mission Innovation (MI) which involves 22 different countries as well as the EU.

In the report, the authors demand the use of artificial intelligence and robotics to accelerate the development of material science and discovery. These include the use of autonomous laboratories which are able to design and perform experiments automatically before accurately interpreting the results.

The performance, efficiency, and affordability of clean energy technologies can be increased by finding materials with the properties you need. At the moment, we're very much like Edison looking for filaments for his light bulb, testing them one by one in a sequential fashion, by trial-and-error, until we find the one that works. This report lays out a roadmap for methods that will let us quickly discover and design materials with exactly the properties we need. The key is to create fully integrated MAPs from beginning to end that enable humans to accelerate their pace of discovery.

Alán Aspuru-Guzik, Co-chair of the Workshop & Lead Author - Harvard University

Recommendations for Integrating Robotics with Material Synthesis

In addition to this, there are 6 recommendations that have been made which are thought to lead to these so-called materials acceleration platforms. These recommendations call for the industry to integrate robotics with rapid synthesis and characterization of material.

The six recommendations agreed upon by the workshop are:

  1. "Self-driving laboratories" to automatically design, complete and interpret the results of experiments
  2. Further research and development of specific forms of AI to be used for materials discovery
  3. The development of modular building blocks and modular materials robotics platforms for synthesis and characterization
  4. Research into automated computational methods for inverse design
  5. New methodologies to reduce the length of time need for materials simulation
  6. Further research and development of data infrastructure and interchange platforms

Future Prospect

It is important to note that it is important to have multidisciplinary co-operation of chemistry, materials sciences, advanced computing and robotics researchers from across the globe in order to achieve these ambitions.

I'm pleased that CIFAR was able to contribute to Mission Innovation's important work. CIFAR and MI share similar goals, and our emphasis on excellence, global participation and tackling tough questions is the best strategy for creating the disruptive technologies needed to address the world's growing demand for energy.

Alan Bernstein, CIFAR President & CEO

The private-sector stakeholders that join this initiative early will presumably have a first-mover advantage, that is, they will cultivate the know-how to adjust and gain a larger share of the growing benefits from these new technologies.

Dr. Hermann Tribukait, Co-Author


Updated on 31/10/18

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