AI put to work in push for rapid battery development

Article by Adam Duckett

Microsoft wants to compress 250 years of research into 25 years

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) is helping slash the time it takes to develop batteries, with Umicore and a US state laboratory both making strides through separate partnerships with Microsoft.

Umicore has signed a partnership to use Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI service in a bid to cut development times. The materials technology firm says its use of AI and machine learning has already enabled it to file AI-enabled patents for battery materials.

Umicore makes battery materials used in cars made by Volkswagen and BMW among others. Company CEO Mathias Miedreich told the Financial Times he expects AI will shave up to four years from the six-year cycle it can currently take to research new battery materials.

To beat the competition and protect Umicore’s intellectual property (IP), the partnership will create an isolated AI environment in which it will analyse decades of historical company data and feed in external information from simulations, experiments and images.

“With the support of Microsoft, Umicore will be the frontrunner in applying AI as a tool for our battery scientists to win time, efficiency and scale in our innovations while safeguarding our IP in this significant R&D area,” Miedreich said.

The deal follows hot on the heels of the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) announcing it has worked with Microsoft to rapidly shortlist potential battery materials and identify a candidate that could reduce lithium use by 70%. This could bolster energy security for countries competing to import lithium and reduce demand for a material whose production is energy- and water-intensive.

20 years in a week

This article is adapted from an earlier online version.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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