Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Eni have launched a solar frontiers center (SFC) in Cambridge. The center, headquartered on the MIT campus, promotes research in advanced solar technologies through projects ranging from new materials to hydrogen production from solar energy.

The opening of the center comes out of an alliance signed in February 2008 between Eni and MIT. Over the first two years, the center has produced scientific and technological breakthroughs including: construction of the ultra-flexible solar cell; development of the solar cell printed on paper; and advances in production of virus-based metal contacts for solar cells.

They also include development of solar cells that mimic the photosynthetic process; advances in the understanding of how photosynthesis splits water molecules; and construction of a prototype to maximize return on investment in solar thermal plants using parabolic mirrors for sustainable deployment of concentrating solar power.

The cooperation between MIT researchers and those of the ‘research center for non-conventional energy – Eni Donegani Institute’ promotes the exchange of expertise through the pursuit of common objectives. In addition to the solar frontiers center, Eni supports projects in energy research at MIT on traditional hydrocarbons, methane hydrates, global climate change and transportation options.

The alliance with MIT has a duration of five years and involves a financial commitment from Eni for $50m in total, equally distributed between the solar frontiers program and the MIT Energy Initiative – the research group responsible for the study of solutions aimed at transforming the energy system to meet the challenges of the future, of which Eni is a founding member.