Another title: Computational Materials Design: Is this some mega-hype, or are our jobs really in danger?
From the MIT news release:
The same computer methods used by online sales sites to suggest books to customers can help predict the crystal structures of materials, MIT researchers have found.
These structures are key to designing new materials and improving existing ones, which means that everything from batteries to airplane wings could be influenced by the new method. [...]
Using a technique called data mining, the MIT team preloaded the entire body of historical knowledge of crystal structures into a computer algorithm, or program, which they had designed to make correlations among the data based on the underlying rules of physics.
Harnessing this knowledge, the program then delivers a list of possible crystal structures for any mixture of elements whose structure is unknown. The team can then run that list of possibilities through a second algorithm that uses quantum mechanics to calculate precisely which structure is the most stable energetically -- a standard technique in the computer modeling of materials.
The Nature Materials paper from Gerbrand Ceder's group is here [subscription required].