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Photo of Dane Morgan
February 15, 2021

NSF grant will fund development of institute using AI to discover new materials

Written By: Jason Daley

Dane Morgan, Harvey D. Spangler Professor of Engineering in materials science and engineering, is the co-principal investigator on a new National Science Foundation-funded project to develop an Institute for AI-Enabled Materials, Discovery, Design, and Synthesis (AIMS).

AI and machine learning promise to speed up several key steps in science, including data acquisition and model fitting. However, other areas of science, like generating hypotheses, designing experiments and explaining findings are still out of reach for most AI.

AIMS hopes to change that by using materials discovery as a testbed for addressing these AI bottlenecks. By bringing together researchers from many different disciplines, the institute hopes to use AI to investigate new solutions in the wide-ranging field of materials. Projects could range from work on energy technologies like batteries and solar cells to artificial organs and quantum computers.

Researchers often rely on methodical, painstaking trial-and-error processes as they seek advances in materials design, often taking years or decades to design and synthesize materials. The hope is that AI and machine learning could dramatically accelerate discoveries, helping the scientists produce innovations that serve science and society.

This initial $500,000 grant will fund planning for the new institute including the organization of workshops and idea labs to develop the concept, interdisciplinary research between AI specialists and materials science engineers and development of educational outreach programs, partnerships and an organizational structure for the new venture.

The principal investigator for the project is Vasant Honavar of Pennsylvania State University. Other co-principal investigators include Elsa Olivetti of MIT and Mehrdad Mahdavi and Adri van Duin of Penn State.