‘We Need To Do Science Differently Moving Forward’

Project Ada is a global effort that's cutting across disciplines and using AI to speed up development of much-needed clean technologies.

 |  Transcript [PDF]

Having labs on campuses that are over 1,500 km apart won’t stop chemists Curtis Berlinguette and Jason Hein from collaborating with quantum mechanic Alán Aspuru-Guzik on clean technologies. They hope to combine their expertise to accelerate the path to solutions that will benefit people all over the world.

“This is really a global effort, because everybody recognizes this really is the future of science,” says Berlinguette, professor of chemistry at the University of British Columbia.

“We need to do science differently moving forward.”

The Canadian-led international effort spearheaded by this team is called Project Ada. Using a combination of advanced robotics and artificial intelligence, the goal is to rapidly iterate on thin films, an essential component for clean technologies like solar cells, batteries, and more efficient windows.

“[We] built a machine that is actually manufacturing and testing thin films with different conditions to try to optimize their performance,” says Aspuru-Guzik, professor of chemistry and computer science at the University of Toronto.

“So that’s an example of one of the things that we’re doing concretely to accelerate innovation.”

That acceleration is urgently needed, because despite decades of work, scientists are still struggling to move the needle on renewable energy.

“Ten years ago, renewables accounted for about 1 percent of all of the primary energy produced globally,” says Berlinguette.

“Today, that number is merely at 3 percent. We’ve invested billions into this. This is going to require people from different disciplines to be working together in taking these technologies out to the market faster.”

Climate change remains one of the largest global challenges society faces today. The longer we rely on fossil fuels to meet energy demands, the further behind we get in meeting our goals for a sustainable future.

Project Ada is uniquely positioned to innovate at speeds that traditional lab work can’t match. This boost comes at a critical time where we need every advantage to push sustainable energy solutions to the market.

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