This week, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) is hosting the 5th International Conference on Energy Sustainability in Washington, DC. Over the next three days this conference will bring together researchers, scientists and engineers from around the world for more than 300 presentations related to the topic of energy sustainability. Attendees will also celebrate the accomplishments of previous conference paper authors and members of the ASME community.

The focus of this ASME conference is largely on the technical problems associated with making our energy systems more sustainable, though the program indicates that there will be a few non-technical presentations as well. As one could imagine, the topics covered vary widely - from solar to biofuels, emissions reductions to electricity generation. Along these lines, the conference’s papers and talks have been organized into 15 tracks, as follows:

1. Economic, Environmental. Policy, Education, Markets and Legal Aspects of Alternate Energy

2. Fuels and Infrastructure, Including Biofuels

3. Energy Systems Design and Thermoeconomic Analysis

4. Materials; Micro and Nano Technologies Applications to Energy Systems

5. Geothermal Energy, Harvesting, Ocean Energy and Other Emerging Technologies

6. Combined Energy Cycles, CHP & CCHP

7. Thermofluids and Thermodynamics of Energy Systems; Exergy Analysis; Systems Integration

8. Sustainable Cities and Communities; Transportation

9. Advances in Solar Buildings and Conservation; Climate Control and the Environment; Solar Heating and Cooling

10. Solar Chemistry

11. Photovoltaics

12. Concentrating Solar Power

13. Smart Grid, Micro-Grid Concepts; Energy Storage

14. Wind Energy Systems and Technologies

15. Energy Sustainability Posters (poster session)

At this year’s conference, attendees will honor members of the ASME community with awards for contributions in three specific areas - the ASME Solar Energy Division (with the Yellot Award), collaboration between academia, research laboratories and industry (with the Francis Bacon Medal), and contributions to last year’s conference (Best Paper Awards).

In the conference program, organizers have already announced three paper awards for papers submitted to last year’s conference (two were awarded to colleagues of mine from The University of Texas at Austin). In the 2010 “Best Student Paper” award category, Ms. Kelly Twomey and Dr. Michael E. Webber co-authored the paper “Evaluating the Cost of Food in a Carbon Constrained Economy,” which focuses on the energy and carbon footprint of food and how the cost of food might change in the face of carbon regulations or other constraints. Ms. Twomey is a PhD student in UT Austin’s Mechanical Engineering Department.

Two papers received the overall “2010 Best Paper” award. The first award went to Dr. Nico Hotz and his 3 co-authors, from UC Berkley’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology. Their paper discusses an “Exergetic Analysis of Hybrid Energy Conversion and Storage Scenarios for Use in Solar Power in Stationary Applications.” Dr. Hotz is a post-doctoral researcher at UC Berkeley, where he has been working since 2005 (when he started his PhD program)

The second paper selected as a conference “2010 Best Paper” was authored by Dr. Carey W. King and his co-authors from UT Austin and HDS Systems Design Science focuses on the two energy metrics – Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI) and Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA). In their paper, they explore their research in “Defining a Standard Measure for Whole System EROI Combining Economic ‘Top-Down’ and LCA ‘Bottom-Up’ Accounting.”

As I attend sessions this week, I will put together posts that focus on some of the points that grab the attention of conference attendees, to be published in the coming days and weeks.

Photo Credit:

1. Picture of U.S. Capitol Building by humbertomoreno and used under this Creative Commons License

2. Picture of appetizers by ho un ombrello nel culo che si apre da sè and used under this Creative Commons License

3. Photo of solar panels at sunset © Copyright Pink Dispatcher and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence