Toyota Research Institute has announced a collaboration with Northwestern University to use the world’s first data factory to make vehicles greener and more efficient.

Data factory is machine learning algorithm which is capable of synthesizing materials at record speeds. The team will use it to browse Northwestern’s new “Megalibraries.” They contain more new inorganic material than scientists have ever collected and classified in the past.

Instead of using trial and error to combine materials in the hope of something useful, the data factory will process the data in megalibraries using artificial intelligence to search the genome for materials to find what will work in certain circumstances. Even with machine learning before this collaboration, Toyota says that AI was trained on lower quality datasets. However, he believes that this system can be trained to incorporate sophisticated algorithms to quickly and objectively identify critical materials for specific needs.

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“This groundbreaking research marks a tipping point in how we discover and design important materials,” said Chad Mirkin, director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology and the George B. Rutman Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University. “Together with TRI, we are ready to empower the scientific community to find the best materials that can really strengthen net energy transition.”

In this particular case, Toyota is looking for new catalysts make fuel cell cars more efficiently. He believes, however, that this method of scanning materials will have many applications. Together, they expect to be able to find ways to make hydrogen cleaner, remove CO2 from the air and develop highly efficient solar cells.

“Meeting the growing demand for carbon-free mobility is a major challenge,” said Brian Storey, TRI’s senior director of energy and materials. “Thanks to this partnership with Northwestern, we have significantly reduced the time needed to test and find new materials that can be used in batteries and fuel cells to decarbonize transportation.”

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