Gizmag: New Record Efficiency for Black Silicon Solar Cells

Researchers at the University of Aalto in Finland have broken the efficiency record for black silicon solar cells -- a type of cell that can gather sunlight even from tight angles -- by almost 4 percent.

Black silicon can be manufactured simply by adding a dense network of nanoscale needles on top of a standard piece of silicon. Modifying the material in this way makes it a lot less reflective, allowing solar cells that use it to trap light even when it's coming from very low angles. This could be a good way to increase the yield of solar cells throughout the day, particularly in countries at higher latitudes. On top of this, black silicon cells could also be cheaper, as they don't need the antireflection coatings used by many other types of solar cells.

BBC: Heating Houses With 'Nerd Power'

All computers produce heat, but computer servers produce a lot of heat -- so much that it usually costs a fortune to cool them down. So why isn't this heat used instead to keep homes or offices warm? Actually, "nerd power" is already being tried out.

Nerdalize's solution is, effectively, to spread their data center across domestic homes linked by fiber-optic cable. The excess heat can then be used instead of going to waste.

FuelFix: Eagle Ford Drilling Will Get a Lot Cheaper by Mid-2016

Pumping a barrel of oil out of the Eagle Ford Shale could get $10 to $15 cheaper by summer 2016 as service companies cut costs and operators tune up their wells, analysts say.

The oil slump hasn’t stopped producers in the south Texas play from getting better at targeting oil-rich rock in lateral sections of their horizontal wells, speeding up their pressure pumping systems and adopting better technologies for bringing wells into production.

Those efforts could help lift wells’ initial production rates by an average 33 percent in the Eagle Ford, even as service companies cut prices for drilling tools, proppant and rigs by an average 16 percent this year, Wood Mackenzie analysts said at a meeting with journalists last week.

LA Times: Santa Barbara Pipeline Operator Has Long Record of Problems

Plains Pipeline, the large Texas-based company responsible for the pipe that ruptured in Santa Barbara County, has accumulated 175 safety and maintenance infractions since 2006, according to federal records.

A Times analysis of data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration shows Plains' rate of incidents per mile of pipe is more than three times the national average. Such incidents may include problems with pipelines, storage tanks and drains, among others. Among more than 1,700 pipeline operators listed in a database maintained by the federal agency, only four companies reported more infractions than Plains Pipeline.

Economic Times: Troubled Nuclear Fusion Project Looks for New Path

In 1985, then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. president Ronald Reagan launched one of the unlikeliest ideas of the Cold War. Under it, the Soviet Union would team up with United States and other rivals of the day to develop nuclear fusion: the same limitless energy source that powers the Sun.

Today, 30 years on, their dream is still a long and agonizing way from reality. Launched in 2006 after years of wrangling, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor ( ITER) project is saddled with a reputation as a money pit.