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IBM pushes for acceleration of new materials discovery in 5 in 5 predictions

In its annual “5 in 5” predictions, technology giant IBM said it will focus its efforts on accelerating the discovery of new materials to enable a more sustainable future.

IBM’s “5 in 5” technology predictions are aimed at helping the business sector and the society using available technologies. These are based on the work occurring within IBM Research’s global labs and broader industry trends.

The urgency of addressing several global issues in different sectors, IBM sees it necessary to accelerate the discovery of new materials to enable a more sustainable future. The company’s researchers are exploring technologies that would allow companies “to reinvent the materials design process to find solutions to such as challenges as fostering good health and clean energy as well as bolstering sustainability, climate action, and responsible production.”

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IBM said that it usually takes an average of 10 years and $10-$100 million for new materials discovery with specific properties.

“We want to cut both years and cost 90%, with the help of cutting-edge technologies,” IBM said. “These technologies are artificial intelligence (AI), data augmentation with traditional, classical computing and emerging quantum computing, and so-called generative models and laboratory automation through the open, hybrid cloud.”

Global issues

In a blog post written by Alessandro Curioni and Kathryn Guarini of IBM, they said that the company believes that in the next five years, the new materials that the company hopes to discover will be able to address global issues such as “efficiently capturing carbon dioxide from our overburdened atmosphere, and storing it safely, mitigating climate change; finding more sustainable ways to grow crops to feed our surging population while reducing carbon emissions; rethinking batteries and energy storage before we have to rethink our world; developing more sustainable electronic devices and better antivirals.”

By leveraging and utilizing these technologies, IBM said it will be able to “modernize the human process of discovery” that is based on scientific research.

RoboRXN, cloud-powered chemistry, is one of the “tools” that the company is looking into to aid it in speeding up new materials discovery. Using AI, researchers at RoboRXN will be able to predict the outcome of chemical reactions, which will reduce significantly testing time.


“Materials can be synthesized 24 hours per day, seven days a week, without disruption, and with limited interaction from humans,” IBM said.

“Scientists simply have to give the system a molecule they want to make, and the AI in the software will outline a step-by-step recipe along with a list of ingredients.”

The free-to-use AI model behind RoboRXN was made available two years ago and has already predicted nearly one million reactions for students, professors, and scientists. Since earlier this year IBM scientists around the world are using RoboRXN to synthesize materials for carbon capture, photoresists, and antivirals. It will soon go to work generating materials for nitrogen fixation.

IBM stressed that the company is focused on developing processes that companies can use.

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