Researchers at MIT and in Russia and Singapore are now using artificial intelligence to help determine the changes they want to make to semiconductors or other crystalline material. These materials are so sensitive that just a bit of strain can change dramatically their properties such as their ability to control electricity, conduct heat and more.
These types of alteration are called strain engineering and unlike others ways of changing a material’s properties, such as chemical doping, they offer a lot of flexibility. “Strain is something you can turn on and off dynamically,” said MIT professor of nuclear science and engineering and of materials science and engineering Ju Li. But, the nearly endless possibilities that strain engineering can deliver have been a problem in terms of deducing the final product. Strain has the potential to be applied in six different ways and with nearly infinite gradations of degree. “It quickly grows to 100 million calculations if we want to map out the entire elastic strain space,” Li said.