MIT News: Celebrating the Homecoming of Ernest Moniz

After more than three and a half years of service as the 13th U.S. Secretary of Energy, nuclear physicist Ernest J. Moniz has returned to his roots at MIT, the place where he served most of his professional career.

Nominated to the cabinet by President Barack Obama in March 2013 and confirmed by the Senate on May 16 in a unanimous vote -- a rare occurrence in a polarized political atmosphere -- Moniz left the office on Jan. 20, 2017, with the arrival of the Trump administration.

Now, he intends to build upon that experience by working on policy proposals for climate solutions through clean energy innovation, as well as in the area of nuclear security. In addition to serving in a part-time appointment at MIT as professor of physics post-tenure and special advisor to the president, and as a nonresident senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, he also intends to do additional work in clean energy through a nonprofit organization of his own.

IEEE Spectrum: Efficiency of Silicon Solar Cells Climbs

In research published this week in Nature Energy, researchers at Kaneka Corporation, a resin and plastics manufacturer based in Osaka, Japan, describe the first silicon solar cell to achieve a record-breaking 26.3 percent efficiency -- a 0.7 percent increase over the previous record. That may not seem like a lot, but it’s really a big step when you consider that silicon solar cells’ theoretical maximum efficiency is just 29 percent.

In producing its new 180.43-square-centimeter monocrystalline silicon prototype cell, Kaneka further developed and improved on several of the technologies promoted by NEDO. Chief among them is Kaneka’s proprietary heterojunction technology. It reduces recombination, or resistive loss, where instead of exiting the device to produce electricity, positive and negative charges in the solar cell combine and produce heat.

Axios: The Coal Industry Is Sick -- and It's Terminal

Even if President Trump magically resurrected the coal industry, that doesn't mean that jobs would come back. Automation is a much more immediate threat than over-regulation.

In 2008, the coal industry hit its greatest production ever right around the time that employment numbers bottomed out. That's largely due to a geographic shift in production. Trump has made it a point to highlight the plight of miners across Appalachia, but the industry has undergone a clear and steady shift away from underground mining in that region to surface mining in the West.

Washington Post: How James Inhofe Is Upending the Nation's Energy and Environmental Policies

For more than a decade, Sen. James M. Inhofe has raged against the scientific consensus that humans are fueling climate change, calling it “the greatest hoax” ever perpetrated on Americans. The Oklahoma Republican has blasted the Environmental Protection Agency as an “activist organization” that has unfairly burdened everyone from farmers to fossil-fuel companies.

Now the man critics once dismissed as a political outlier has an unprecedented opportunity to shape the nation’s energy and ­environmental policies. And he has helped populate the upper ranks of the agency he has derided with several of his closest confidants.

At least half a dozen former aides to Inhofe -- and counting -- have been hired into top positions at the EPA and the White House. The chief of staff and deputy chief of staff to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, a fellow Oklahoman and longtime friend of Inhofe, spent years working for the senator. Pruitt’s senior advisers on air, climate and legal issues are Inhofe alumni. In addition, two former Inhofe aides have become top domestic and international energy and environmental advisers to President Trump.

Auto Blog: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Is Building a Full-Sized Capsule

The race to construct a working hyperloop system is reaching the endgame. It was recently reported that Hyperloop One built a development "test tube" in Las Vegas. The company aims to build a commercial hyperloop transport system between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, transporting people from A to B in 12 minutes. H1's test track is 500 meters in length, and the startup tested a prototype system in May of 2016.

Now, H1's competitor Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, or HTT has begun building what they call the world's first full-scale passenger hyperloop capsule. HTT's R&D center is in Toulouse, France, and the plans call for the capsule's official reveal in early 2018. According to HTT, the construction of the capsule comes after three years of research and development, and it's being built in collaboration with Carbures S.A. Carbures is an aeronautics and aerospace material specialist with production on three continents.