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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will be home to two of 46 new multimillion-dollar Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) announced today by the White House, in conjunction with a speech delivered by President Barack Obama at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences.
The EFRCs, which will pursue advanced scientific research on energy, are being established by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science at universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations and private firms across the nation.
The EFRC program will provide $19 million to fund the Center for Excitonics at MIT, which will be directed by Marc A. Baldo, associate professor of electrical engineering and a principal investigator in the Research Laboratory for Electronics. The center aims to understand the transport of charge carriers in synthetic disordered systems, which hold promise as new materials for converting solar energy to electricity and for electrical energy storage.
The EFRC program will also supply $17.5 million to fund the Solid-State Solar-thermal Energy Conversion Center at MIT, which will be directed by Gang Chen, the Warren and Townley Rohsenow Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Pappalardo Micro and Nano Engineering Laboratories. The center's objective is to create novel solid-state materials for the conversion of sunlight and heat into electricity.
"As global energy demand grows over this century, there is an urgent need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and imported oil and curtail greenhouse gas emissions," said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. "Meeting this challenge will require significant scientific advances. These Centers will mobilize the enormous talents and skills of our nation's scientific workforce in pursuit of the breakthroughs that are essential to make alternative and renewable energy truly viable as large-scale replacements for fossil fuels."
The 46 EFRCs, each to be funded at $2 million to $5 million per year for a planned initial five-year period, were selected from a pool of some 260 applications received in response to a solicitation from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science in 2008. Selection was based on a rigorous merit review process using outside panels of scientific experts.
EFRC researchers will take advantage of new capabilities in nanotechnology, high-intensity light sources, neutron scattering sources, supercomputing, and other advanced instrumentation, much of it developed with DOE Office of Science support over the past decade. They will use these in an effort to lay the scientific groundwork for fundamental advances in solar energy, biofuels, transportation, energy efficiency, electricity storage and transmission, clean coal and carbon capture and sequestration, and nuclear energy.
Of the 46 EFRCs selected, 31 are led by universities, 12 by DOE National Laboratories, two by nonprofit organizations, and one by a corporate research laboratory. The criterion for providing an EFRC with Recovery Act funding was job creation. The EFRCs chosen for funding under the Recovery Act provide the most employment for postdoctoral associates, graduate students, undergraduates, and technical staff, in keeping with the Recovery Act's objective to preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery.
The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.
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