ENEA will create an advanced virtual laboratory to exploit the full potential of supercomputing and artificial intelligence for advanced materials research applied to renewable energy plants, as part of the European project IEMAP, funded with 4.5 million euro by the MASE as part of the international cooperation initiative Mission Innovation.
The laboratory will speed up experimental data analysis to identify the most suitable materials and technological solutions to be applied in the energy sector. It comprises four main components: a computational infrastructure based on the ENEA CRESCO6 supercomputer and three experimental infrastructures dedicated to batteries, electrolysers for the production of green hydrogen and photovoltaics, three key areas of the energy transition process of our country .
This advanced IT architecture will be created by ENEA jointly with the Cnr, the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) and the RSE, providing laboratories and experimental and computational infrastructures distributed across the nation.
“The costs of green energy technologies can be reduced by investing in research and innovation, in order to accelerate the energy transition process and keep up with global competition, particularly with China, South Korea and Japan”, pointed out Giorgio Graditi, Head of the ENEA department of Energy Technologies and Renewable Sources. “Identifying the best solution for a specific energy application is a long and articulated process with constraints related to technology, availability of raw materials and environmental impact. This led to the creation of a hyper-technological virtual environment to speed up the research and experimentation with materials and solutions for energy and new technologies which, at the moment, only partially uses the power of the supercomputing, relying mostly on lab work. This will enable us to reduce the number of experiments, optimize times and maximize research results”, said Graditi.
“The heart of the computational infrastructure will consist of a database and a workflow acting as a ‘director’, guided by Artificial Intelligence and Big Data technologies to optimize the design of new materials”, explained Massimo Celino, researcher at the ENEA Division “Development of Systems for Information Technology and the ICT” and responsible for the IEMAP project. “Its engine will be CRESCO6, which in 2018 entered the TOP500 world’s most powerful computing machines and is currently one of the 131 reference infrastructures of the National Research Program 2021-2027. Additional High Performance Computing technologies for data management and the development and implementation of a library of numerical codes for the molecular modeling of new materials will be implemented on our supercomputer, physically located in the ENEA Research Center in Portici”, said Celino.
As for batteries, the activity will concern new materials for electrodes (cathode and anode) and electrolytes to increase energy density, improve safety, reduce costs and extend the lifecycle of batteries. The researchers will also develop inks to manufacture electrodes through gravure printing and a sustainable recovery of materials from end-of-life batteries.
As regards electrolysers, the project will consider both low temperature (<100°C) and high temperature (600-900°C) materials, while for photovoltaics the IEMAP laboratory will focus on developing innovative perovskite thin film solar cells, sustainable methodologies and techniques for recovering materials from end-of-life photovoltaic panels and hybrid and integrated photovoltaic-storage systems to manage the intermittency of the solar source.
The laboratory, which will be part of the new National Research Center in High Performance Computing, Big Data and Quantum Computing, proposed by the INFN, brings together over fifty members from the world of scientific research and Italian industry.