Nav: Home

NTU, MIT and Russian scientists develop AI to predict and engineer material properties

February 12, 2019

Scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), in collaboration with researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Russia, have developed a machine learning approach that can predict changes to the properties of materials from straining the material.

This work could lead to the possibility of engineering new materials with tailored properties for potential use in communications, information processing, and energy fields.

In a paper published today (12 Feb) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors demonstrated their use of Artificial Intelligence to identify the most energy-efficient strain pathways that could transform diamond into more effective semiconductors.

When a semiconductor material is bent or strained, the atoms in its structure are perturbed, thus changing its properties such as how it conducts electricity, heat or the transmission of light. This process is known as 'strain engineering'.

Conventional methods of studying and mapping the effects of strain engineering on a material rely on trial and error lab experiments and computer modelling on a limited scale.

As a prelude to this work, last year the NTU Singapore and MIT authors reported in Science , that diamond nanoneedles could be bent and stretched as much as 9 per cent, which was surprising given that diamond is the hardest natural material known.

And in earlier research with industrial applications, "strain engineering" was used on silicon processor chips, where a one per cent strain allowed electrons to move faster, resulting in up to 50 per cent higher processing speeds.

Professor Subra Suresh, President of NTU Singapore and a senior author of the study said their new method used machine learning to predict the effects of strain on the properties of a material. This makes it possible to calculate the almost infinite possible combinations of material strain in a six-dimensional strain space.

"Now we have this reasonably accurate method that drastically reduces the complexity of the calculations needed," said Prof Suresh, who is a former Dean of Engineering at MIT.

"Our research is an illustration of how recent advances in seemingly distant fields such as material physics, artificial intelligence, computing, and machine learning can be brought together to advance scientific knowledge that has strong implications for industry application."

Customising material properties through strain

While conventional ways of altering semiconductors such as chemical doping - adding a new element to a material - could affect and change its properties permanently, the nonlinear elastic strain considered here is reversible, which means it can be applied and removed depending on need, explained Professor Ju Li, Battelle Energy Alliance Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering at MIT.

However, identifying and applying the full potential of strain-engineered materials is very difficult, due to the daunting range of possibilities. Strain can be applied in any of six different and independent ways (in three different dimensions, each one of which can produce strain in-and-out or sideways), and with nearly infinite gradations of degree, so the total number of possibilities are impractical to explore simply by trial and error.

"It quickly grows to 100 million calculations if we want to map out the entire elastic strain space," says Prof Li, who is also a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering.

In this study, the team examined the effects of strain on the bandgap, a key electronic property of semiconductors, in both silicon and diamond.

Using their neural network algorithm, they predicted with high accuracy how different amounts and orientations of strain would affect the bandgap.

Being able to tune the bandgap could improve the efficiency of semiconductor materials such as a silicon solar cell, increasing the energy harnessed from light while making it a thousand times thinner, thus reducing the cost needed for materials, transportation and infrastructure.

Diamond has shown great potential as a semiconductor material with superior intrinsic properties, which are ideal for high-frequency devices like radios in satellite communications, and power electronics used for mobile networks and electrical power grids.

The work was undertaken by a multidisciplinary research team comprising Prof Subra Suresh from NTU; MIT Prof Ju Li, MIT principal research scientist and NTU Visiting Professor Dr Ming Dao, and graduate student Zhe Shi from MIT; as well as Evgeni Tsymbalov and Alexander Shapeev from the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology.

In addition to the bandgap, their method can also be used to study and predict other properties of materials, such as electronic, photonic and magnetic behaviours.

The work points to potential new opportunities to create materials for electronic, optoelectronic, and photonic devices that could find uses for communications, information processing, and energy applications.
-end-
Notes to the Editor:

Zhe Shi, et al., "Deep elastic strain engineering of bandgap through machine learning," PNAS, 11 Feb 2019 https://www.pnas.org/lookup/doi/10.1073/pnas.1818555116

Media contact:

Lester Kok
Assistant Director
Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University
Email: lesterkok@ntu.edu.sg

About Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has 33,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the Engineering, Business, Science, Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences, and Graduate colleges. It also has a medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.

NTU is also home to world-class autonomous institutes - the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering - and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI) and Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N).

Ranked 12th in the world, NTU has also been placed the world's top young university for the past five years. The University's main campus is frequently listed among the Top 15 most beautiful university campuses in the world and it has 57 Green Mark-certified (equivalent to LEED-certified) building projects comprising more than 230 buildings, of which 95% are certified Green Mark Platinum. Apart from its main campus, NTU also has a campus in Singapore's healthcare district.

Nanyang Technological University

Related Engineering Articles:

Engineering a new cancer detection tool
E. coli may have potentially harmful effects but scientists in Australia have discovered this bacterium produces a toxin which binds to an unusual sugar that is part of carbohydrate structures present on cells not usually produced by healthy cells.
Engineering heart valves for the many
The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the University of Zurich announced today a cross-institutional team effort to generate a functional heart valve replacement with the capacity for repair, regeneration, and growth.
Geosciences-inspired engineering
The Mackenzie Dike Swarm and the roughly 120 other known giant dike swarms located across the planet may also provide useful information about efficient extraction of oil and natural gas in today's modern world.
Engineering success
Academically strong, low-income would-be engineers get the boost they need to complete their undergraduate degrees.
HKU Engineering Professor Ron Hui named a Fellow by the UK Royal Academy of Engineering
Professor Ron Hui, Chair Professor of Power Electronics and Philip Wong Wilson Wong Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Hong Kong, has been named a Fellow by the Royal Academy of Engineering, UK, one of the most prestigious national academies.
Engineering a better biofuel
The often-maligned E. coli bacteria has powerhouse potential: in the lab, it has the ability to crank out fuels, pharmaceuticals and other useful products at a rapid rate.
Pascali honored for contributions to engineering education
Raresh Pascali, instructional associate professor in the Mechanical Engineering Technology Program at the University of Houston, has been named the 2016 recipient of the Ross Kastor Educator Award.
Scaling up tissue engineering
A team at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Harvard John A.
Engineering material magic
University of Utah engineers have discovered a new kind of 2-D semiconducting material for electronics that opens the door for much speedier computers and smartphones that also consume a lot less power.
Engineering academic elected a Fellow of the IEEE
A University of Bristol academic has been elected a Fellow of the world's largest and most prestigious professional association for the advancement of technology.

Related Engineering Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...