Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Iowa State, Ames Lab Researcher Developing New Computing Approach to Materials Science

Krishna Rajan of Iowa State University and the Ames Laboratory thinks there’s more to materials informatics than plotting a thick cloud of colorful data points.

As he sees it, managing computing tools to discover new materials involves harnessing the key characteristics of data: volume, velocity, variety and veracity (the four V’s).

Lately, though, “the focus is only on volume,” said Rajan, Iowa State’s Wilkinson Professor of Interdisciplinary Engineering, director of the university’s Institute for Combinatorial Discovery and director of the international Combinatorial Sciences and Materials Informatics Collaboratory. Rajan is also an associate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory. “The focus is on more and more data. Data doesn’t make you smarter. What you want is knowledge.”

And so Rajan’s research team is developing statistical learning techniques to research and develop new materials. A 2011 paper published by the Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical & Engineering Sciences describes how the process helped researchers improve piezoelectrics, materials that generate electricity when they’re bent. (Rajan is lead author of the paper.) Another 2011 paper published by Nature described using the same tools to design vaccine-delivery materials that mimic pathogens and enhance the body’s immune response. (Balaji Narasimhan, associate dean for research at Iowa State’s College of Engineering and the Vlasta Klima Balloun Professor of Engineering, is lead author of the paper.)

A 2012 news story in Science by Robert F. Service also contrasts Rajan’s approach with studies that have computed the properties of tens of thousands of potential new battery materials.

“Our approach requires the need to carefully establish a dataset of descriptors on which we directly apply statistical learning tools,” says the Proceedings paper (co-authored by Prasanna Balachandran, an Iowa State post-doctoral research associate; and Scott Broderick, an Iowa State research assistant professor). “One of the arguments we are trying to put forward in this paper is that although the potential number of variables can in fact be large, data dimensionality reduction and information theoretic techniques can help reduce it to a manageable number.”

Rajan likens the process to cooking the perfect spaghetti sauce. Rather than starting with every ingredient in the grocery store, why not start with the most important ingredients? Maybe with the tomatoes and the salt?

“Then how much salt and how many tomatoes?” Rajan said. “Depending on how they’re combined, you get different results. That’s the logic of this.”

The way to start, Rajan said, is to develop some rules of thumb about the material you’re trying to build. Once the most important design rules are set, computing power can be used to search through libraries of compounds and identify promising solutions.

“It’s not that we need more data,” Rajan said. “We need the right data.”

Rajan calls his approach efficient, robust and effective. He says it’s all based on data mining, information theory and statistical learning concepts. He also says it can be readily applied to different problems in various disciplines.

Rajan has used his ideas to help Iowa State researchers advance their work in agronomy, biofuels, climate studies and genomics. His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense and Iowa State University.

Matt Liebman, Iowa State’s Henry A. Wallace Endowed Chair for Sustainable Agriculture

and a professor of agronomy, has worked with Rajan to study how variables such as farming practices, soil type and climate affect the availability of nitrogen in crops such as corn. He said Rajan has been able to take large data sets, sort the useful information from the less relevant noise and identify influential variables and relationships.

“Given the complexity of the world of soils, plants and climate, that’s a nice skill set to have as we develop this effort,” Liebman said. “He has an approach that nobody in the field I normally work with has. This is a good example of cross-fertilization among disciplines.”

Rajan and other researchers will discuss their data-driven methods during the first International Conference and Summer School in Molecular and Materials Informatics next February in Melbourne, Australia. The conference is sponsored by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (Australia’s national science agency) and Iowa State. Rajan is one of five members of the conference organizing committee.

The conference will cover methods for the rapid discovery of novel materials, data management, visualization of materials data and other topics in materials and computational sciences.

Rajan is patient and thoughtful when explaining his techniques. He said it’s all part of helping the materials science community understand his path toward materials informatics.

“Part of my job is building that community,” he said. “And the community is growing.”

Krishna Rajan, Materials Science and Engineering, Ames Laboratory, 515-294-2670,

Mike Krapfl, News Service, 515-294-4917,

Krishna Rajan | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht From ancient fossils to future cars
21.10.2016 | University of California - Riverside

nachricht Study explains strength gap between graphene, carbon fiber
20.10.2016 | Rice University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>