Innovation in energy: Winners of the Eni Award 2019 announced

Source: press release, 18 July 2019

illustration: Eni
illustration: Eni

Eni has announced the names of the winning researchers and scientists at the 12th edition of the Eni Awards. The awards were established in 2007 and have become internationally recognised over the years in the fields of energy and environmental research. The Eni Awards aim to promote the better use of energy sources and encourage new generations of researchers. They are a testament to the importance that Eni places on scientific research and innovation.

The Energy Transition award is one of the main three and rewards the best innovations in the use of hydrocarbons to decarbonise the energy system. This year, it will be presented to James A. Dumesic, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has developed innovative catalytic processes for converting biomass fuels and chemical products, increasing yield by optimising reaction conditions. Among the new processes he has developed are converting a sugar, fructose, into compost, from which biomaterials can be obtained and used as an alternative to common plastic materials produced from fossil fuels.

The Energy Frontiers award, for research into renewable energy sources and energy storage, was presented to Michael Aziz and Roy Gordon, of Harvard University, who have developed a new kind of battery that is far cheaper and more innovative than those that are currently available. This battery has a range of advantages, including a long life and rapid response.

Finally, the Advanced Environmental Solutions award is dedicated to research into air protection, water and earth conservation, and the reclamation of industrial sites. It was presented this year to Paul Chirik, of Princeton University, for his research in the field of catalysis. Metals like iron and cobalt can be used to replace the noble metals (platinum, rhodium, palladium, etc.) in catalytic reactions to produce medicines and consumer products, with positive effects on business and the environment. Chirik recently discovered that the iron catalysts he has developed can recycle butadiene, paving the way for future developments in mitigating the environmental impact of traditional plastics.

Eni awards for young researchers
The Young African Talents award, established in 2017 on the 10th anniversary of the Eni Award and given to young talent from the African Continent, was presented to Emmanuel Kweinor Tetteh of the Durban University of Technology and Madina Mahmoud of the American University in Cairo.

Tetteh assessed a process that combines innovative photocatalysts with biological treatment systems for waste water, simultaneously converting COinto fuel. Mahmoud’s work focusses on preparing innovative membranes to treat water from production.

The Young Researcher of the Year award is presented every year to two researchers under the age of 30 who have received a research doctorate in an Italian university. It was won this year by Alberto Pizzolato and Matteo Monai. The former is a student at Turin Polytechnic and presented research focussed on modelling methods for 3D printing, in order to establish energy technology systems.

The latter is from the University of Trieste and presented research into developing nanostructured catalysts based on non-noble – and therefore cheap – metal alloys, for use in the energy sector, particularly for converting biomass fuels and chemical products.

The awards ceremony will take place at the Quirinal Palace on 10 October and will be attended by the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella.