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Campus exhibit spotlights Swiss energy innovations

One is a solar-powered airplane that flew for 26 consecutive hours. Another is a revolutionary yet elegant method for saving energy while showering. There are also environmentally friendly buildings that use a variety of innovative approaches aimed at sustainability, energy efficiency, and reducing their carbon footprints.

These are a just few examples of the award-winning Swiss energy projects that will be featured in a traveling exhibit that blends art and science and is making its world premiere at Northeastern University on Friday. The exhibit is presented in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Office of Energy and swissnex Boston, the Consulate of Switzerland. It will be on display in the International Village lobby through mid-September.

The exhibit highlights 25 projects, all of which have received the renowned Watt d’Or award. Established in 2007, the award is given by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy in recognition of outstanding Swiss energy projects that offer a significant benefit for society through innovations including mobility, renewable energy, and building efficiencies.

In addition to informational posters, the exhibit includes a number of multimedia and other visual components. These include video screens, solar panels, and an energy efficient electric “Flyer” bicycle that is used in a bike rental service in Switzerland. A model of Pac Car II, a sleek fuel economy vehicle powered by a fuel cell and which set a world record in 2005 for energy-efficient driving, is also on display. The exhibit even includes a demonstration area for Joulia, the world’s first shower tray with an integrated heat exchanger, which extracts heat from the outgoing shower water and uses it to warm up the incoming cold water.

Visitors at an opening reception Thursday night admire the Swiss innovations on display at a new exhibit opening Friday in International Village at Northeastern. Photo by Mariah Tauger.

Visitors at an opening reception Thursday night admire the Swiss innovations on display at a new exhibit opening Friday in International Village at Northeastern. Photo by Mariah Tauger.

The exhibit’s public opening Friday coincides with a daylong seminar at Northeastern convening renowned innovators and leading authorities on energy from industry, academia, and government from the U.S. and Switzerland. The day will feature a range of discussions on subjects related to energy, clean technology, and innovation that have significant global implications.

At a reception Thursday evening inaugurating the Watt d’Or exhibit, Doris Leuthard, a Swiss Federal Councilor and head of Switzerland’s Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications, noted that the exhibit and Friday’s energy summit will serve several important roles: inspiring innovation, bringing together top minds to discuss solutions to global energy challenges, and strengthening relationships and collaborations between Massachusetts and Switzerland.

Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, noted that these events also dovetail with Northeastern’s longstanding commitment to green initiatives on campus and the pursuit of use-inspired research in sustainability, one of the university’s core research themes.

Friday’s summit will include keynote addresses by Leuthard and Director, as well as Benjamin B. Downing, Massachusetts Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, and Lino Guzzella, a professor of thermotronics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. Winners of the Watt d’Or award will also give TED-style presentations on their innovations, and a series of panel discussions will focus on topics such as public sector energy research and bringing technology to market.

In 2013, Northeastern partnered with swissnex Boston to sponsor another campus exhibit at Gallery 360 called “Swiss Style Reboot: New Perspectives for Information Design.” The exhibit featured dynamic visualization work from Switzerland during the 1950s and 60s, an era recognized for producing remarkably clear and functional design. It also highlighted more recent work inspired by Swiss style.