Skip to Content

AI, Quantum Computing Will Accelerate Materials Discovery

IBM’s Watson is already at work developing novel polymers.
March 28, 2017

Artificial intelligence is helping to accelerate the identification of promising new materials, said Dario Gil, vice president of science and solutions at IBM Research, at the EmTech Digital conference in San Francisco on Monday.

Machine learning software on a laptop can extract the critical information from scientific papers in seconds, enabling the creation of vast knowledge graphs across wide bodies of research in weeks rather than decades, Gil said. It means scientists can apply algorithms and simulations to extract insights from a far bigger pool of patents, papers and other reports than any single person could ever hope to read.

Gil didn’t point to specific breakthroughs to date. But he said IBM is already applying its Watson artificial intelligence system in an effort to discover novel polymers. For all the advances in AI and computing, though, he said even the world’s most powerful supercomputers are still often stumped, such as in trying to predict the electronic structure of molecules. IBM, however, sees great potential here in the rise of quantum computing, which can dramatically accelerate calculations and more closely mimic nature by tapping into the weird properties of quantum physics.

The company unveiled a new quantum chip last year, and earlier this month announced plans to build a cloud-based, commercially-available quantum computing system. “We anticipate that we’re going to see quite dramatic advances in this year and the next, in terms of the power of quantum computers,” he said.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting

With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics.

VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence

On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.

This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine

Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.