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The University of Southampton

Automating materials discovery to help accelerate drive for clean fuel

Published: 3 September 2021
Professor Graeme Day (right)
Professor Graeme Day (right) is an expert in computational methods for materials discovery.

Pioneering computational methods are being combined with automation and robotics to enhance the discovery advanced materials.

A €10 million research programme, led by the University of Southampton’s Professor Graeme Day , is addressing current limitations to materials discovery – a process that is laborious, time-consuming and limited to trial and error.

Advanced materials are needed in almost all aspects of our lives. Healthcare, energy generation, data storage, and pollution control, for example, all require advanced materials.

Part of the ADAM (Autonomous Discovery of Advanced Materials) project will look for new materials for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, as a source of hydrogen as a clean fuel. The team will also focus on gas storage and the separation of molecules using porous materials, which can be very energy-intensive.

Professor Day, of the Computational Systems Chemistry research group, says: “The idea is to automate as much of the materials discovery process as we can, freeing up more of the researcher’s time for coming up with new ideas, which can be handed over to the computational-robot system to explore.

“At Southampton we are developing computational methods that can propose molecules that look promising and predicting how they come together in the solid state. We’re working on the methodology to make things more general so they work on more types of molecules and will be able to find all kinds of new molecules that we might not have expected.”

Professor Day’s team is working alongside teams from the University of Liverpool and the University of Rostock in Germany. ADAM is funded by a Synergy Grant from the European Research Council, with €3.5 million coming to Southampton.

Read the full story in the latest edition of Re:action , the university’s research and enterprise magazine

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