By applying AI to chemistry, Raleigh-based Bay Nano is bringing smart glass with nano crystals to your windows and TV displays.
The NC State-affiliated company will share its groundbreaking AI chemistry and nanoparticle research at CED’s Venture Connect Summit later this week (March 29-30) in RTP.
Founder and CEO Charles Tse, who has spent his career working in advanced material development, came up with the idea that would become BayNano—”smart crystals” and nanotechnology—years ago.
“I had been in the material field since graduate school after I was reading Scientific American back in the 1990s, so that’s how I got started,” Tse said. “I still believe that the future of Earth and humankind depends on advanced materials. For example, in climate change, clean energy, food security, and in drugs—just to name a few—there’s going to be a dependence on new nanomaterials.”
Even when an early venture in electric-controlled solar glass eventually went under, Tse kept the faith that he would one day find a way to fix performance issues and bring the product to market. He knew the efficiency benefits of this environmentally-conscious solution would be worth it in a rapidly climate-affected world.
In 2017, when the NC State alum met up with two fellow Wolfpack scientists—thin-filming-coating specialist Aram Amassian and quantum dots pioneer Milad Abolhasani—the gears clicked into place. Through AI-guided discovery, the team realized they could rapidly investigate the utility of different materials to make their energy-saving goals a reality.
True to his supply management roots, Tse’s team figured out that the key to producing nanotechnology solutions was in expediting the research and development process. Traditionally, advanced technologies can take decades and hundreds of millions of dollars to bring to market.
Developed by its scientific founders, Chief Scientific Officer Abolhasani and Chief Technology Officer Amassian, BayNano’s “AI Chemist” makes this development process more efficient by digitally running chemical reactions to search for a desired outcome.
Done by hand, a single reaction would normally take hours of prep, experimentation, waiting, clean-up, and data analysis; and most advanced materials take tens of reactions. Scientists may be precise, but they are human and make mistakes. AI doesn’t, Tse said—it learns from failed experiments and tries new procedures until something works.
“If it doesn’t meet the criteria of the end result we want, the system itself, the AI, goes back, figures it out and retests by itself, automatically.” Tse said. “As a result of our AI Chemist platform, we can design or discover new materials and bring them to market anywhere between 10 to 1,000 times faster than the traditional methods today.”
With the aid of its AI Chemist, BayNano was able to rapidly develop its “quantum dots” nano-particle technology without sacrifice.
Quantum dots alone take 17 chemical reactions to develop, Tse said. Beyond speeding up the research process, the AI Chemist also helps develop the products from “Lab-to-Fab” (laboratory to fabrication, for those of you who don’t speak SemiConductor-ese) at a pace of up to 1000 times faster than a traditional lab setting.
“There can be very challenging, long delays in that process, in the traditional method,” Tse said. “We’re all so dependent on people. Our system is different because we use the same AI system for R&D. It just switches mode once it discovers the material. It knows all the conditions and all the inputs. it goes into mass-manufacturing mode automatically.”
With its AI Chemist-created nanomaterials, BayNano focuses on two suites of related products: smart glass and quantum dots. Think of “smart glass” as a way to control the light and heat that enters your house—like “closing the blinds,” Tse said, but hands-free and with much more energy-efficiency benefit.
Quantum dots are a little harder to explain. Think of them as like the tiny pixels you see on your laptop, phone screen and TV, but brighter and in more vibrant color. This technology will make up the next generation of digital display, Tse said, but its utility can go beyond that.
Quantum dots can also be printed onto windows so that they can emit any color of light at any time of day or night.
“Imagine that you are in your home or your office in the morning and you want blue light to wake you up,” Tse said. “Then maybe in the afternoon, you’re sleepy, so you say, ‘Ok, now maybe I want green, something making me feel alive.’ Then, it’s evening and you want to go to sleep, so you say ‘I guess I want a little red.’ That is the future of lighting. That is our product.”
From N.C. State’s Centennial Campus, BayNano hopes to get their quantum dots product to market by the end of next year. This week, Tse’s goal is simpler: bring the magic of AI-assisted chemistry and next-generation lighting to the CED Venture Connect stage.