Einstein wrestled with a problem back before we even knew the universe was expanding, and he was looking for a way to keep the universe from collapsing. And so he discovered, in his theory of gravity, something like this dark energy - he called it a cosmological constant - could play this role, pushing things away.
One of the most exciting things about dark energy is that it seems to live at the very nexus of two of our most successful theories of physics: quantum mechanics, which explains the physics of the small, and Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, which explains the physics of the large, including gravity.
We've known for a long time that the universe is expanding. But about 15 years ago, my colleagues and I discovered that it is expanding faster and faster. That is, the universe is accelerating, and that was not expected, but it is now attributed to this mysterious stuff called dark energy which seems to make up about 70 percent of the universe.