During lockdown, BRISK2 has been speaking to Work Package Leaders for their reflections on BRISK2 and the future of renewable energy. Senior Researcher Francesco Zimbardi from ENEA, Trisaia Research Centre in Rome, Italy, has given us his thoughts.

Francesco Zimbardi, ENEA, Italy
Senior Researcher, Francesco Zimbardi, ENEA, Italy

ENEA is a public agency within the Ministry of Economic Development. Our roots are in nuclear research. Today we have developed this with a focus on nuclear fusion. We also carry out research on renewable energy, materials, biotechnology, agricultural methods and we advocate and are developing the concept of the circular economy. This aims at eliminating the continual use of resources and the ‘take, make and dispose of’ method of production. Apart from supporting all levels of research, ENEA also provides a public service in Italy, providing energy efficiency certification. We offer transnational access researchers thermo and biochemical research facilities, updraft gasification capabilities and steam explosion pre-treatment. We also have a hydrogen membrane reactor and the ability to create pure hydrogen. 

I remember when BRISK1 was underway, interest in biofuels and bioenergy was at an all-time high. We had a global oil crisis. The price of oil peaked at $160 a barrel. Now, the attention is not only on biofuels, but also on chemicals and biomaterials because of their environmental sustainability.

BRISK2 enables us to look at such issues and areas of research and to collaborate with European partners. We can create stable international research relationships. This is both special and important, especially when we share similar visions and goals.

ENEA Pilot plant PRAGA for biomass gasification with air/O2/stream in updraft model
ENEA Pilot plant PRAGA for biomass gasification with air/O2/steam in updraft mode

COVID-19

During lockdown, I have thankfully been able to maintain momentum with my work, which of course is detailed and complex and requires time. In terms of transnational access, it may take a while before researchers seeking transnational access are confident enough to travel again, even when borders reopen. Perhaps one solution, early on, will be to allow domestic visits to BRISK2’s rigs.

The future

Like so many, I would like to see a move away from high dependency on fossil fuels. We need to find the right mix of biomass, fossil fuels and other renewable energies.

However, we also need to look at how the world’s resources generally, and not just fuel. We need to move towards using materials that are renewable. For example, using biopolymers instead of steel or oil-based plastics.

Breakthroughs

COVID-19 has given us all time to reflect. I am a scientist, so while I always look to science for a breakthrough, I think we need to see a breakthrough in how, where, and how much we work – all over the world. We have to renew our minds and be open to change.