Energy, natural resources, and chemicals using generative AI

7th March 2024 by Pratik Mitra | Energy

Energy, natural resources, and chemicals using generative AI

Navigating the Landscape: ENRC Executives' Perspectives on Generative AI in Resource Management

Anticipated Applications and Optimism, In the dynamic realm of resource management, executives in Energy, Natural Resources, and Chemicals (ENRC) companies are poised to embrace generative AI for predictive maintenance and asset optimization, with a substantial 73 percent foreseeing its integration into their organizations. This advanced technology is also seen as a key player in automating routine tasks and decision-making processes, with 70 percent believing in its potential to streamline operations.

Driving Energy Innovation, Generative AI is expected to be a catalyst in the realm of energy innovation. Over half of ENRC executives (54 percent) anticipate its involvement in renewable energy development and management. Moreover, a significant 59 percent believe it will be instrumental in energy demand forecasting and management, underlining its role in shaping the future of sustainable energy practices.

Productivity Boost and Investment Hesitations, A noteworthy 84 percent of ENRC executives anticipate a surge in productivity through the incorporation of generative AI, surpassing the industry average of 73 percent. Despite this optimism, a cautious approach is observed in terms of direct investment, with 35 percent expressing reluctance until 2024, and 15 percent contemplating indefinite postponement. Evidently, a substantial segment is waiting for a more favorable outlook before committing significant resources.

Collaborative Ventures and Strategic Investments, while direct investment hesitations exist, ENRC executive’s express enthusiasm for collaborative ventures in the generative AI domain. Thirty-two percent have shown interest in partnering with external firms, and 27 percent continued to express this sentiment in subsequent surveys. Additionally, 27 percent highlight acquiring generative AI companies or capabilities as a key strategic investment priority in the next 12 months. This aligns with their recognition of the need for foundational technology and infrastructure investments (23 percent in June), aiming to propel the development of new AI-driven products.

Implementation Outlook and Revenue Considerations, Currently, only 5 percent of ENRC companies have operationalized their first generative AI application, with 49 percent planning their initial implementation within the next 12 months—a notable increase compared to the industry average. While 27 percent expect success in automating routine tasks and decision-making processes within the next six months, the executives are less optimistic about generative AI's potential to drive revenue growth or market share. Only 15 percent believe it will create new revenue streams or business models, and a modest 19 percent highly agree that it will aid in organizational growth.

In essence, ENRC executives showcase a blend of optimism and cautious deliberation as they navigate the potential of generative AI in shaping the future of resource management.

Elevating Energy Sustainability: Unleashing the Power of Machine Learning in Materials Discovery and Smart Grid Integration, the combustion of fossil fuels, constituting approximately 80% of the world's energy consumption, stands as the predominant source propelling the surge in greenhouse gas emissions and the consequential elevation in global temperatures. This pivotal issue, as acknowledged by the Paris Agreement, necessitates a paradigm shift towards sustainable energy solutions. While renewable sources, particularly solar and wind power, present a economically viable trajectory aligning with the climate goals of said accord, their proliferation has struggled to keep pace with the escalating demand for energy. Consequently, the proportion of total energy derived from renewable sources has remained stagnant since the turn of the century, underscoring the imperative to expedite the transition to sustainable energy.

The transition towards sustainable energy requires the confluence of innovative energy technologies, robust infrastructure, and forward-thinking policies facilitating the harnessing, storage, conversion, and management of renewable energy sources.

Within the realm of sustainable energy research, the identification and synthesis of suitable materials, such as those used in photovoltaic systems, demand meticulous consideration. The complex process of material discovery, from selection within the vast combinatorial space to synthesis and subsequent utilization in devices like solar panels, unfolds over a protracted timeframe of 15-20 years. This extended duration leaves ample room for enhancement, not only in the efficiency of the discovery process but also in optimizing the durability and reproducibility of devices for integration into energy systems like solar farms. The overarching objective is to ensure commercial viability through meticulous management of energy usage and generation patterns.

This perspective contends that machine learning (ML) holds the key to surmounting many of these challenges. ML models offer the ability to predict material properties with precision, thereby obviating the need for resource-intensive characterization processes. They can generate novel material structures tailored to desired specifications and unravel intricate patterns in renewable energy usage and generation. Furthermore, ML can play a pivotal role in shaping informed energy policies by optimizing energy management at both device and grid levels. To measure the efficacy of platforms designed for accelerated energy materials discovery, The introduction of Acc(X)eleration Performance Indicators (XPIs) in this perspective. We delve into the realm of closed-loop ML frameworks, evaluating the latest strides in leveraging ML for the advancement of energy harvesting, storage, and conversion technologies. Additionally, we scrutinize the integration of ML into smart power grids. In conclusion, we offer a comprehensive overview of energy research domains poised to reap substantial benefits from the symbiotic integration of machine learning techniques.

In the pursuit of evaluating and comparing reports on machine learning (ML)-accelerated methodologies for materials discovery, we advocate for the establishment of a consistent baseline. While performance indicators at various levels have been articulated for energy systems management, there exists a conspicuous absence of equivalent benchmarks for accelerated materials discovery.

The primary objective in materials discovery is the expeditious development of materials ripe for commercialization. Given the protracted timelines traditionally associated with this endeavor—spanning up to two decades—a paramount aspiration of any accelerated approach should be to achieve commercialization at an order-of-magnitude faster pace. Drawing inspiration from the field of vaccine development, where groundbreaking advancements have led to the expedited release of vaccines, we underscore the potential for transformative breakthroughs in materials science through the amalgamation of high-throughput experimentation and ML methodologies.

Although ML for energy technologies shares methodological and principled commonalities with other fields like biomedicine, nuanced operational distinctions surface in practice. ML models for medical applications often grapple with intricate structures addressing regulatory oversight for safe development and use—an aspect not as prominently featured in the energy domain. Additionally, the variance in data availability across fields poses unique challenges; the abundance of data accessible to biomedical researchers stands in stark contrast to the comparatively limited data available to energy researchers. Despite these challenges, the energy sector has rapidly embraced statistical methods, with an increasing number of research groups recognizing their significance.

In light of these considerations, we posit the necessity for a set of metrics that can evaluate and compare ML models in materials discovery workflows. To this end, we propose the introduction of Acceleration Performance Indicators (XPIs) for accelerated materials discovery platforms:

Acceleration factor of new materials (XPI-1):

This indicator evaluates the rate at which new materials are synthesized and characterized using the accelerated platform compared to traditional methods, providing an insight into the efficiency gains.

Number of new materials with threshold performance (XPI-2):

Tracking the discovery of new materials with performance surpassing a predefined baseline, this XPI gauges the efficacy of the accelerated platform in yielding materials with superior properties.

Performance of the best material over time (XPI-3):

This indicator monitors the absolute performance evolution of the best material over time, showcasing whether the accelerated framework outpaces the performance achieved through traditional methods.

Repeatability and reproducibility of new materials (XPI-4):

Focusing on consistency and reliability, XPI-4 ensures that the discovered materials exhibit minimal variation in performance, a crucial consideration for screening materials during the commercialization stage.

Human cost of the accelerated platform (XPI-5):

This XPI quantifies the total costs of the accelerated platform, encompassing researcher hours for design, programming, infrastructure development, database maintenance, and platform operation. It provides a realistic estimate of resources required for platform adaptation.

These XPIs offer a comprehensive framework for evaluating accelerated materials discovery methods, fostering transparency and comparability across diverse platforms. Consistent reporting of these indicators will facilitate the assessment of platform growth and establish a standardized metric for cross-platform comparisons. As a demonstration, we applied these XPIs to evaluate the acceleration performance of several typical platforms, resulting in an overall acceleration score that reflects the collective impact of individual XPIs. This structured approach enables a nuanced evaluation, distinguishing between different methodologies in the pursuit of expediting materials discovery.

Revolutionizing Materials Design: The Synergy of Artificial Intelligence and Human Creativity, The progression of human society is intricately intertwined with the evolution of materials design, a realm of paramount significance spanning applications from civil engineering to regenerative medicine.

Throughout history, the discovery and design of new materials largely relied on chance and the archaic "trial-and-error method," guided by experiential experimentation and often serendipitous discovery. This conventional approach involves iterative phases of identifying research questions, gathering existing data, formulating hypotheses, and engaging in experimentation. Despite its apparent simplicity, this method grapples with numerous bottlenecks, resulting in the protracted and laborious nature of materials design. The journey from conceptualizing a novel material to its market-ready manifestation can span years, if not decades.

Among the most formidable challenges is the quest for effective methodologies to discover and design materials endowed with optimal mechanical, thermal, biological, and chemical properties—ensuring consistent functionality without failures.

The recent strides in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) present an unprecedented opportunity to revolutionize and expedite the laborious process of materials development. AI and ML have ushered in a new era for materials science by deploying computer algorithms to aid in exploration, understanding, experimentation, modeling, and simulation. Collaborating with human creativity, these algorithms contribute to the discovery and refinement of novel materials, promising a transformative impact on future technologies.

Renowned science writer Philip Ball notes that computer algorithms have acquired a form of intuition by discerning patterns within existing knowledge, mirroring human scientific processes. This "learning from experience" allows these algorithms to assist researchers in experiment selection, result analysis, and knowledge extraction. Such an approach, extending beyond human assimilation capabilities, has found success in diverse domains like genomics, drug design, and financial market analysis. This paves the way for the application of similar methodologies to tackle challenges in materials design, spanning mechanical materials, bioinspired materials, and self-healing architectured metamaterials.

The intersection of generative AI and materials applications is exemplified by breakthroughs such as Lu et al.'s graph-focused deep learning technique for spider web architectures. This method not only unravels the intricacies of spider web design but also facilitates the generation of novel bioinspired structural designs. Similarly, Ni et al.'s deep learning framework centered on diffusion models exemplifies efficient materials design with precise molecular control, particularly in the creation of de novo protein sequences for nanotechnology applications.

AI, therefore, introduces a paradigm shift, streamlining the acquisition of new knowledge about the vast material universe and circumventing research bottlenecks. The potential is underscored by an array of research articles on designed materials utilizing AI, covering energy materials, composites, polymers, bioinspired materials, and additively manufactured materials.

In this context, the review provides a comprehensive overview of research efforts focused on materials design using AI and ML algorithms. It explores state-of-the-art advancements in AI models, encompassing supervised learning, unsupervised learning, reinforcement learning, and material informatics tools. These methodologies empower researchers to extract meaningful insights from massive datasets, unraveling intricate correlations within material properties.

The subsequent sections delve into specific challenges within materials design, addressing biologically inspired materials, predicting mechanical behavior, and navigating complexities associated with soft materials and compositionally complex metamaterials. The review aims to elucidate the advantages and potential of AI and ML in these domains.

While still in the early stages of this transformative journey, envisioning a future where all materials scientists wield AI-based co-pilots opens avenues of vast possibilities. With AI tools as companions, the capabilities and potential for materials scientists expand significantly, heralding a future where innovation and progress in the field can ascend to unprecedented heights.

Materials Informatics: Unleashing Innovation through AI Integration


In the dynamic intersection of materials science, data science, and artificial intelligence (AI), Materials Informatics (MI) emerges as a transformative multidisciplinary field. Acting as a nexus, MI harnesses the potential of vast material databases, propelling materials design and development to new frontiers. This synergy, often realized through Hybrid AI, integrates MI tools with AI and Machine Learning (ML) algorithms, revolutionizing engineering across diverse applications.

Foundations of Materials Informatics

The MI framework revolves around three pivotal components: (1) data acquisition, (2) data representation, and (3) data mining or analysis. These pillars collectively facilitate the extraction of valuable insights from expansive datasets, reshaping the approach to materials engineering.

Methods in Materials Informatics

Integrating Data Modalities: Transformer models, particularly adept at merging diverse data formats, empower comprehensive materials analysis.
Example: Hsu et al.'s work on sustainable materials derived from biocompatible resources.
Physics-Informed Deep Learning: Efficient simulations are achieved by integrating physical principles into deep learning techniques.
Example: Predicting stress fields near cracks with high fidelity and resolution using deep learning.

Materiomics: Materiomics employs analytically, simulation, and data-driven procedures to predict complex behaviors, crucial for bioinspired material design.
Emphasizes environmental sustainability and considers the life cycle and ecological impact of materials.

Computer Vision Methodologies: Graphic rendering and virtual reality enhance interpretability in materials engineering, providing insights into intricate 2D and 3D microstructures.
Example: AI-based approach for structure and property quantification of 3D graphene foams.

Transfer Learning and Fine-Tuning: Adaptation of pre-existing models for addressing problems differing from the original, speeding up the design process.
Example: Transfer learning algorithm solving dynamic multi-objective optimization problems.

Large Language Models (LLMs): LLMs like Chat-GPT and Bard offer adaptability and efficiency for specific tasks in material analysis.
Fine-tuning enables quick application across domains, including dataset mining, molecular modeling, and material structure extraction.

Autonomous Discovery using AI: Harnessing AI in automated experimentation systems transforms the traditional trial-and-error approach to materials discovery.
Example: Nikolaev et al.'s autonomous experimentation system for growing carbon nanotubes with precise growth rates.

Energy, natural resources, and chemicals using generative AI

Future Implications and Concluding Remarks

The amalgamation of MI tools with AI algorithms signifies a dynamic force in reshaping research methodologies. Digital strategies, empowered by this symbiosis, hold the promise to overcome traditional challenges in materials design. As researchers delve into the intricate interplay of physical, chemical, and topological properties, the coupling of MI with AI emerges as a vital catalyst, propelling the discovery and development of novel materials into a realm of unprecedented possibilities.

Pratik Mitra

Research Associate

A dynamic market research specialist with expertise in industry research, market assessment, competitive intelligence, and strategic market intelligence to provide information for business decisions.

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