MIT-Italy helps build supercharged partnerships on campus and across the globe.
“He was here to dream, and I said ‘OK, let’s dream together,’” recalls Professor Mircea Dincă of his first encounter with Automobili Lamborghini Head of Development Riccardo Parenti in February 2017. Two years later, the team is celebrating its first major collaborative victory by filing a joint patent.
The new patented material was synthesized by Dincă’s lab in the Department of Chemistry, with the support of Automobili Lamborghini’s Concept Development Department, and will serve as the technological base for a new generation of supercapacitors. By increasing the surface area exposed to electric charge in relation to mass and volume, the patent promises to increase energy density by up to 100 percent when compared to existing technology. This is a big leap, even when compared to Lamborghini’s cutting-edge supercapacitors, and, more broadly, a game-changer in high-performance motor sport.
A second collaboration, with Professor John Anastasios Hart’s team in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, pursues new design principles for high-performance battery materials that can be integrated into the vehicle structure, and is on schedule to deliver its first prototypes in the next year. Together, these collaborations are key in meeting the performance targets Lamborghini set for its Terzo Millennio car.
As Stefano Domenicali, chair and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini, puts it, “The joint research with MIT fully embodies our values and our vocation for anticipating the future: a future in which hybridization is increasingly desirable and inevitably necessary.”
Federica Sereni, consul general of Italy in Boston, Massachusetts, comments: “Italian companies, in particular those in the automotive industry, know how to combine passion, tradition, research, and innovation in a way that is unique in the world. Therefore, the match between Lamborghini and MIT is a perfect one, leading to an ideal combination between vision and a level of technological innovation that is among the most advanced in the world”.
Serenella Sferza, MIT-Italy Program co-director, concurs, praising the MIT-Italy-Lamborghini partnership as a perfect example of how, by acting as a bridge between MIT and Italy’s centers of excellence, the MIT-Italy Program opens avenues for research and innovation that include meaningful student experiences. In this case, after connecting Lamborghini to professors Dincă and Hart, Sferza also recruited mechanical engineering student Patricia Das ’17 and chemical engineering and chemistry student Angela Cai ’19, whose research at Santa Agata Bolognese cemented and advanced the Lamborghini-MIT collaboration.
“The Lamborghini-MIT Italy partnership exemplifies the range of MISTI activities and the symbiotic ways in which they feed on each other,” says Sferza. “I initially met Patricia and Angela when they applied to the MIT-Italy Global Teaching Labs program, and, based on their MIT academic background and their strong performance teaching STEM subjects at Italian high schools, later recruited them for the Lamborghini collaboration. Both earned high marks from Lamborghini, and learned a lot from the experience.”
“MIT-Italy has given me an invaluable chance to immerse myself in a research topic I am very passionate about in a professional setting with real, global applications,” shares Cai. “I have presented my findings and suggested future research direction to representatives from several departments at my host organization. When I finish my current work assignment, I plan on using the experience and connections gained here to pursue graduate study in this field.”
MIT-Italy and Lamborghini, the cornerstone partnership that paved the way for these initiatives, have extended their collaboration and plan to create additional student and research opportunities both on and off campus. In parallel with laboratory work, a campuswide motor sport hackathon is being considered.
“This has been such a fruitful partnership for us,” says Sferza. “There are few companies that exemplify the Italian talent for combining beautiful design with high-end technology in such a cool way. It is a joy to connect Lamborghini with MIT’s innovation community.”
The faculty, for their part, agree. “This collaboration presented us with the kind of challenges that we love at MIT. We like to understand that the work we’re doing in the lab can contribute to real, new, important technology and also have that work involve good science and engineering,” says Hart. “Our motto is ‘mind and hand,’ and this gets our minds to focus on a challenge and our hands to do something new and practical in the lab.”
“We were dreaming two years ago,” says Dincă. “Now, we really think this could be happening.”