In 2008 the collaboration between Eni and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the world's most important scientific institutions began. The agreement was renewed and strengthened in January 2017 at a meeting between the president of MIT, Rafael Reif, and the CEO of Eni, Claudio Descalzi. The results of this joint work, now consolidated, take the form of experimenting with and patenting technologies of excellence in various fields, from renewables and environmental protection to carbon reduction and safety at work. This collaboration involves over 100 researchers, professors and post-graduates, whose support has been fundamental in more than 40 projects. In line with our business model and the 2030 Agenda's Sustainable Development Goals, we are working to take the path together to a low-carbon energy model, built on skills and technologies that can change the way Eni produces and consumes energy. We are searching for the perfect balance between “maximising access to energy and fighting climate change,” as Eni's mission states.
MIT's renewed efforts in its research are in the same direction and we support them fully, with a view to technological advancement in magnetic confinement fusion energy. This has become a central goal of our collaboration since 2018. We are talking about one of mankind's biggest challenges, and when we achieve it, we will be able to provide unlimited and extremely clean energy. Developing this new energy source will help resolve problems of energy and environment around the world.
What we are working on is creating a similar process to the sun's fusion, where two nuclei from hydrogen or hydrogen isotopes get near enough to melt into each other. The result is a helium atom, while a part of the mass of the hydrogen atoms is converted into energy. To reproduce this fusion on earth, we must use hydrogen because its nucleus, consisting of one proton, is the smallest carrier of a positive charge. Precisely, three isotopes from this element are used: protium, deuterium (or heavy hydrogen) and tritium, respectively with one, two and three neutrons, linked to a single proton. Although they are the smallest elements in the universe, they can melt into each other and release energy, but only at very high temperatures that can overcome the electrostatic repulsion between the two nuclei, due to their positive charges. Fusion is the primary energy that powers the universe, produced by the sun and other stars. Eni will continue to promote research into magnetic fusion through the MIT Laboratory For Innovations in Fusion Technologies.