photo: Marc Baldo
Marc Baldo, a professor of engineering at MIT, wants to help solve the energy crisis and as the director of MIT's new Center for EXcitonics he just might be able to do that.

The center is focused on developing new solar cells and solar lighting. "Lighting uses a lot of energy in buildings," he says. "We want to come up with new lighting sources."

Baldo wrote the proposal for the center to the Department of Energy in August of 2008 but thought he had no chance of getting the millions of dollars he and his colleagues at MIT, Harvard and Brookhaven needed to fund the center. When the Stimulus plan was started they were more hopeful - but only slightly.

"There was heavy competition for this grant," he says.

In August of 2009, Baldo found out that they would get $19 million dollars to launch the center. MIT kicked in another million dollars. The five-year award will also support up to 42 students. "I was very happy," says Baldo. "We can get a lot

Marc Baldo Laboratory
of stuff done."

According to Baldo, the center is working on controlling how energy moves. "If a molecule absorbs light, it generates excitons, which are tiny little packets of energy and are the key to how solar cells work," he says. "We don't understand a lot about them now but the key is to learn how to control excitons."

Baldo calls the center a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to tackle these energy issues and try to reduce energy use in lighting and generate lower cost solar electricity. He notes that the stimulus plan's investment in his center and similar ones across the state can have a "transformational impact" on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

"There wouldn't be a center without the stimulus funding," he says.