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Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Digital Transformation Institute awards energy and climate security grant to Su and Shukla

Illinois professors Xiao Su (left) and Diwakar Shukla (right) received a seed grant from the Digital Transformation Institute to make chemical separation more sustainable. 

Chemical and biomolecular engineering professors Xiao Su and Diwakar Shukla received funding through a seed award from the Digital Transformation Institute to leverage machine learning for more sustainable and energy-efficient separations for water purification, resource recovery, carbon capture, and more.

“Electrification of separation processes has the potential to make a significant impact on decarbonization and environmental sustainability, by providing integration with renewable energy (green electrons) and modularity,” Su said. “A significant challenge is designing selective electrodes for contaminant removal and resource recovery, and we believe data science/artificial intelligence can play a tremendous role in accelerating materials discovery.”

Led by Su, “AI-Driven Materials Discovery Framework for Energy-Efficient and Sustainable Electrochemical Separations” is one of two newly funded sustainability projects that apply artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and advanced analytics to support sustainability initiatives for energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. 

“AI methods have tremendous potential for application in the field of energy efficiency and climate security,” Shukla said. “Given the amount of fertilizer used in modern agriculture, efficient removal of nitrate from agricultural wastewater would save both energy and improve the climate.”

The project is among 21 awards totaling $4.4 million that will use AI techniques and digital transformation to advance energy efficiency and lead the way to a lower-carbon, higher-efficiency economy that will ensure energy and climate security.  

In addition to cash awards, research teams gain access to up to $2 million in Azure Cloud computing resources, up to 800,000 supercomputing node hours on the Blue Waters petascale supercomputer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, up to 25 million computing hours on supercomputers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), and free, unlimited access to the C3 AI® Suite hosted on the Microsoft Azure Cloud.

“The world’s energy infrastructure will need to undergo radical changes to address the impact of global energy generation,” said Thomas M. Siebel, chairman and CEO of C3 AI. “In the face of this crisis, the Institute is proud to bring together the best and brightest minds and provide direction and leadership to support objective analysis and AI-based, data-driven science for climate security.”

To learn more about the other seed-funded projects, check out the original announcement from the C3DTI. Visit to learn more about the Institute’s programs, award opportunities, and selected research proposals.

About Digital Transformation Institute

Established in March 2020 by C3 AI, Microsoft, and leading universities, the Digital Transformation Institute is a research consortium dedicated to accelerating the benefits of artificial intelligence for business, government, and society. The Institute engages the world’s leading scientists to conduct research and train practitioners in the new Science of Digital Transformation – operating at the intersection of artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, internet of things, big data analytics, organizational behavior, public policy, and ethics.

The ten Digital Transformation Institute consortium member universities and laboratories are: University of California, Berkeley, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Carnegie Mellon University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, National Center for Supercomputing Applications at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Princeton University, Stanford University, and University of Chicago. Additional industry partners include AstraZeneca, Baker Hughes, and Shell.

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