The New Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Center

17 May of 2010 by

mit solar The New Eni MIT Solar Frontiers Center

The timing could not have been moreperfect for the opening of the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Center, which opened on the institute’s campus last pastweek.

It’s no secret clean energy is helping investment and jobs, and the development of solar technology is a competitive and lucrative component. The new facilityhopes to keep the momentum moving forward.

Susan Hockfield, president of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT) said the center’s aim is to develop solar technologies thatcan be competitive with other energy sources, without the need for any government subsidies.

“This center has the potential to fundamentally transform how theworld produces and uses energy," Hockfield spoke at the openingceremony.

Originally paired up with Italian energy (read: oil andgas) company Eni back in 2008, the alliance over the past two yearshas resulted in some impressive solar technology breakthroughs:

  • Construction of the first ultra-flexible solar cell 

  • Development of the first solarcell printed on paper

  • Advances in the production of virus-based metal contacts for solarcells

  • Development of solar cells that mimic the photosynthetic process

  • Advances in the understanding of how photosynthesis splits water molecules

  • Construction of a prototype for a new type of solar thermal plantusing parabolic mirrors for concentrating solar power

Oil companies have invested in solar tech in the past, and Eni (BIT:ENI) appears to be no different. They have the money, political clout, andprobably a certain amount of foresight as to how the world of energy ischanging.

Paolo Scaroni, CEO of Eni, outlined three reasons for focusing onsolar. He spoke on the limited amounts of remaining fossil fuels, theabundance of solar energy, and the need to drastically improve theinefficient solar technologies existing today.

“If only 10 percent of what I’ve seen here materializes, thisresearch will change the world,” Scaroni said.

MIT and Eni’s alliance has a duration of five years and involves afinancial commitment of US$50 million from Eni, equally distributedbetween the Solar Frontiersprogram and other projects of the MIT Energy Initiative(MITEI).

Image AdamPieniazek via Flickr

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