A critical factor in MIT’s growing strength in technologies that harness the energy in sunlight is its partnership with Italian energy firm Eni S.p.A. The connection was announced by company CEO Paolo Scaroni in 2008. His firm has committed $50 million over five years. Half the funds cover Eni’s participation as a founding corporate member of MITEI, and the rest supports the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Center at the Institute.

The Center is devoted to interdisciplinary research in solar energy, and covers areas such as:

  • maximizing the scope and efficiency of solar thermal power plants;
  • splitting water to recover its energy content;
  • solar energy capture, and storage, with a special emphasis on new materials;
  • thin-film photovoltaic systems structured at the nano-scale; and
  • self-assembling photovoltaic materials.

The MIT co-directors of the Center are Daniel Nocera, professor of chemistry, and Vladimir Bulovic, associate professor of electrical engineering. Eni Head of R&D International Development Nicola De Blasio is currently a visiting scientist at MIT, and serves as the company’s on-site liaison.