Unknown to most, the quaint town of Bressanone, Italy hosted the Energy Conference 2014. This conference brought together students, professors, professionals, experts — anyone interested in learning about great innovations and research in energy. From the world’s first white PV panel (beautiful!) to automating artificially intelligent lights, the conference put a spotlight on some of the leading research in the energy field.
Some of the most interesting research (at least to yours truly) involved improving building envelope performance to save energy simply by the introduction of an innovative material. Phase change materials were a hot topic at this year’s conference; the heat storing, lightweight materials even cause a few passionate academic debates. BioPCM by Phase Change Energy Solutions introduced their organic PCM that changed the way our group thought about the usually toxic PCM solutions. The bulk of the magic lies in the organic, vegetable-based compound that allows for a high thermal storage capacity. While they may not be appropriate for Austin which has a hot and humid climate, it moved us to think about innovative materials in our building envelopes. Overall the conference was a very inspiring excursion to continue the search for new and better solutions to old problems. Who knew we’d learn about such big ideas from such a small town? Text and photographs by Julia Park