Fri. Dec 1st, 2023
    AI’s Breakthrough: Merging Physics and Machine Learning

    The advancements in AI have shown immense potential in revolutionizing various industries, from healthcare to transportation. However, one of the key challenges faced in implementing AI systems is the integration of domain-specific knowledge with machine learning capabilities. To address this hurdle, researchers have turned to “physics-informed neural networks” and “scientific machine learning” techniques, providing AI algorithms with a solid foundation grounded in the laws of physics.

    This approach allows AI to leverage existing knowledge about a particular field, whether it’s engineering, medicine, or any other domain. By incorporating decades or even centuries of established knowledge, the AI system gains a head start, narrowing down the vast solution space it must explore. Karianne Bergen, a machine-learning expert at Brown University, likens it to solving a maze where certain paths have already been blocked off.

    One compelling example of this approach is training AI to direct a robot’s movement. By including the fundamental laws of physics in the simulation, the machine-learning algorithm can explore a significantly reduced set of possibilities. Without this foundational knowledge, the AI might generate solutions that defy the laws of nature, such as walking through solid objects or disregarding gravity altogether.

    Moreover, physics-informed machine learning systems demonstrate the ability to make accurate predictions with far less data compared to AI systems without this integration. Karen Willcox, director of the Oden Institute for computational engineering and sciences at the University of Texas, Austin, highlights the practical applications of this approach, including the creation of digital twins for predictive healthcare and the optimization of battery performance in electric vehicles.

    For instance, Elysia, a division of WAE Technologies, leverages physics-informed neural networks to manage the batteries used in Formula E race cars. By combining their understanding of battery physics with machine learning capabilities, engineers can push the limits of battery performance, enhancing power without compromising their lifespan. This breakthrough also holds the potential to increase the range of electric vehicles, benefiting everyday consumers.

    The convergence of physics and machine learning is opening doors to innovative possibilities across industries. As computing power continues to grow and novel algorithms emerge, the incorporation of domain-specific knowledge into AI systems will become even more prevalent. This approach marks a critical step toward bridging the gap between theory and application, empowering AI to tackle real-world challenges with greater accuracy and efficiency.


    What are physics-informed neural networks?

    Physics-informed neural networks are AI models that combine machine learning capabilities with the incorporation of established principles from physics. By integrating the laws of physics into the AI system, these networks are able to explore a narrower set of solutions when solving complex real-world problems.

    How do physics-informed machine learning systems benefit various industries?

    Physics-informed machine learning systems offer several advantages. They require less data to make accurate predictions, making them more efficient and cost-effective. These systems also ensure that AI-generated solutions align with the laws of nature, avoiding implausible outcomes and enhancing overall reliability.

    What are the potential applications of physics-informed machine learning?

    Physics-informed machine learning can be applied across various domains. For instance, in healthcare, it enables the creation of digital twins to personalize medical treatments. In transportation, it optimizes battery performance, extending the range of electric vehicles. These are just a few examples of the broad potential for physics-informed machine learning in solving complex real-world problems.

    Where can I learn more about physics-informed machine learning?

    To gain deeper insights into this innovative approach, you can watch Karen Willcox’s TED Talk on physics-informed machine learning, which provides an illuminating exploration of the topic.