In light of concerns over global warming, the fact that we are rapidly depleting our non-renewable energy sources, coupled with the exponential growth in demand for power, more innovation is being sought to boost developments in clean energy so that it can be used as a reliable alternative power source. These innovations are required now, extended development periods of years and decades are no longer acceptable, people, governments and businesses around the world are becoming aware that the switch to clean energy needs to be made sooner rather than later.
Luckily, artificial intelligence (AI) is stepping in to provide a solution. Across industries, AI is being utilized as a catalyst, speeding up the pace at which developments in technology can be achieved and then entered into the market. For the sector of clean energy it is doing this through the development of new materials. Development of materials is essential to the function of clean energy. Materials used can dictate how much energy can be generated from each renewable source, which is fundamental to the viability of renewables taking the place of fossil fuels. In addition, the materials that are currently used to support clean energy sources are not clean themselves, they’re often made from toxic, non-renewable materials, which contradicts the clean energy sector’s status of being clean.
Currently, the focus of implementing AI into the clean energy industry has been at the top end, where sensors have been developed to enhance optimization. However, there is a wealth of opportunity available in using AI to develop from the bottom up, to focus on innovating new materials in short time frames.
AI is disrupting the entire clean energy sector through development of new materials and processes. The major problems with clean energy lies within the fact that its current manufacturing processes are expensive, require a lot of energy, and use toxic materials. Fortunately, AI poses the possibility of cleaning up these outdated methods. In theory, AI could be used to decarbonize clean energy’s processes. It could help to develop chemical reactions that would rely on smaller amounts of energy to create the same products, in doing so it would make the industry more energy efficient and bring down operating costs. AI could also help to develop new materials that don’t rely on toxic minerals, and in doing so AI could help clean energy manufacturing processes become truly clean.
In addition to this, the materials that AI can be called upon to help develop can be created with a goal in mind to reduce emissions associated with other parts of the supply chain. For example, shipping is a major factor of the clean energy sector that produces emissions. Fortunately, new technologies such as 3D printing are being advanced that could see elimination of associated emissions of shipping through the ability to print what it needed on site.
Current applications of AI that are already disrupting the industry include Asa (Autonomous Discovery Accelerator) which is the world’s first self-driving laboratory. The lab can test materials at accelerated speeds, meaning that new material testing and prototyping which currently takes months or even years can be dramatically reduced. Ada is currently working on both making solar panels more resilient and on turning carbon dioxide into usable fuels.
The use of AI for the development of clean energy materials has become a key focus of governments worldwide, meaning that in the coming years we should begin to reap the benefits of new innovations in this area, leading to clean energy that is more cost effective and genuinely clean.