St. FX Physics Department Spearheads Collaboration, As University Joins Effort to Revolutionize Material Discovery in Canada

November 3, 2017
St. Francis Xavier University’s physicists and chemists are collaborating with Lumiant Corporation, a Canadian materials science company, to test a new artificial intelligence (AI) computing platform that is expected to revolutionize how materials are discovered.

Today, the vast majority of research into materials involves modifying known chemistries, rather than the costly and risky pursuit of searching for entirely new materials. The traditional Edisonian process of trial-and-error discovery typically takes decades. Meanwhile, industry needs groundbreaking solutions now – ranging from better solar and battery materials to lighter-yet-stronger alloys, and more efficient catalysts.

Lumiant’s Xaedra™ platform transforms the discovery and development process by combining AI and quantum physics into a system that predicts material properties from atomic structure information. In a matter of seconds researchers using Xaedra can identify a number of potential materials that solve a particular need, replacing educated guesswork.

Lumiant and St. Francis Xavier University are working together so that the university’s physicists and chemists can test Xaedra before its release by using the platform in their research. Other academic researchers across Canada are also participating in this beta testing program.

“Through our collaboration with Lumiant, St. FX researchers and students have a great opportunity to be at the forefront of new material research with a technology that promises to fundamentally alter how materials are discovered,” says Dr. Kevin B. Wamsley, St. FX Academic Vice-President and Provost. “This work will enable our science students to gain valuable insights into the rapidly evolving world of material science.”

St. FX physics professor Dr. Brandon van Zyl, a lead investigator bringing this state-of-the-art collaboration, along with St. FX Industry Liaison Manager Andrew Kendall and Lumiant Business Development Manager Charles Robison, agrees. “My physics students are excited about using this quantum mechanics-based computing platform to solve real-world problems – to possibly discover new materials. This is valuable hands-on experience that will prepare them for the professional science careers that are out there,” he says. “We are also very fortunate at St. FX to have full access and on-site technical expertise to the ACENET and Compute Canada high performance computing (HPC) systems. With this infrastructure, Lumiant is able greatly to accelerate Xaedra’s development as well as provide free access to universities and public research institutes.”

“Lumiant is grateful for the enthusiastic participation of St. FX. When the Xaedra platform is formally launched, we have no doubt that it will benefit academia, industry and society by revolutionizing how new and superior materials are discovered and developed for solving many of today’s challenges,” stated S. Richard Holloway, CEO and founder of Lumiant Corporation. “The future of material science is truly exciting and we depend on our universities to produce the scientists who will continue the journey of material discovery.”