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Workshop: NeurIPS 2023 Workshop: Machine Learning and the Physical Sciences

Attention-guided neural differential equations for physics-constrained deep learning of ion transport

Danyal Rehman · John Lienhard


Species transport models typically combine partial differential equations (PDEs) with relations from hindered transport theory to quantify electromigrative, convective, and diffusive transport through complex nanoporous systems; however, these formulations are frequently substantial simplifications of the governing dynamics, leading to the poor generalization performance of PDE-based models. Given the growing interest in deep learning methods for the physical sciences, we develop a machine learning-based approach to characterize ion transport across nanoporous membranes. Our proposed framework centers around attention-guided neural differential equations that incorporate electroneutrality-based inductive biases to improve generalization performance relative to conventional PDE-based methods. In addition, we study the role of the attention mechanism in illuminating physically-meaningful ion-pairing relationships across diverse mixture compositions. Further, we investigate the importance of pre-training on synthetic data from PDE-based models, as well as the performance benefits from hard vs. soft inductive biases. Our results indicate that physics-informed deep learning solutions can outperform their classical PDE-based counterparts and provide promising avenues for modelling complex transport phenomena across diverse applications.

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