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IBM’s 5 predictions in 5 years for sustainability are full of hope

IBM Research has announced its annual 5 in 5: five significant changes driven by innovation in science and technology within five years. IBM Research’s look into the future this year focused on the question, “How can we use technology to reinvent materials design and discovery to find more sustainable solutions to everyday problems?”

This year’s IBM 5 in 5, timed to coincide with the first-ever virtual UN General Assembly, showcases the ways IBM’s research community is applying technologies to scale scientific thinking and accelerate discovery to find more sustainable solutions. Here are IBM Research’s 2020 5 in 5:

  1. Capturing and transforming CO2 to mitigate climate change. In the next five years, we will be able to capture CO2 from the air and transform it from the scourge of the environment into something useful. The goal is to make CO2 capture and reuse efficient enough to scale globally so we can significantly reduce the level of the harmful CO2 in the atmosphere and, ultimately, slow climate change.
  2. Modeling Mother Nature to feed a growing citizenry while reducing carbon emissions. In the next five years, we will replicate nature’s ability to convert nitrogen in the soil into nitrate-rich fertilizer, feeding the growing world while reducing the environmental impact of fertilizers. We’ll come up with an innovative solution to enable nitrogen fixation at a sustainable scale and help feed the world’s rapidly growing population.
  3. Rethinking batteries before we have to rethink our world. In the next five years, we will discover new materials for safer and more environmentally preferable batteries capable of supporting a renewable-based energy grid and more sustainable transportation. Many renewable energy sources are intermittent and require storage. The use of AI and quantum computing will result in batteries built with safer and more efficient materials for improved performance.
  4. Sustainable materials, sustainable products, sustainable planet. In the next five years, we will advance materials manufacturing, enabling semiconductor manufacturers to improve the sustainability of their coveted products. Scientists will embrace a new approach to materials design that enables the tech industry to more quickly produce sustainable materials for the production of semiconductors and electronic devices.
  5. Learning from our past for a healthier future. In the next five years, we aim to help facilitate the generation of treatments to aid physicians and front-line workers in combating novel, life-threatening viruses on a larger scale than is currently possible. A combination of AI, analytics and data can potentially help with the rapid analysis of real-world medical evidence to suggest new candidates for drug repurposing and speed clinical trials. In the future, these tools may reach widespread adoption across industries, effectively becoming one of the means of rapidly responding to global, life-threatening viruses.

This year’s 5 in 5 supports a larger IBM initiative that launched today around the Urgency of Science, about the critical need to implement scientific thinking at all scales. IBM is encouraging those who believe in the benefits of science to share messages in support of the #urgencyofscience.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.