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Editor's Note: This article is adapted from a post that originally appeared the ARPA-E blog.

From solar-powered motorcycles to self-piloting drones that sniff out methane leaks, there’s always something surprising on display at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit. This year’s summit is no different, with nearly 300 envelope-pushing energy technologies ready to wow the crowds at the Technology Showcase — many of them for the first time ever.

Here’s a sneak preview of three live tech demos sure to impress at this annual gathering of the brightest minds and boldest thinkers in energy innovation:

RoCo: R2-D2 Meets HVAC

Tech Showcase Demo: Tuesday, February 28, 1:00-1:20 pm


Energy Department photo by Simon Edelman.

Heating and cooling accounts for 13 percent of all the energy consumed in the United States — but much of that energy goes to waste. ARPA-E’s DELTA program is working to develop energy-efficient solutions that heat and cool people, instead of empty spaces.

The University of Maryland team will demonstrate RoCo, one of the world’s first personal air conditioning systems. Developed as part of the DELTA program, this portable system uses a “smart” nozzle to track user’s movements and direct cool or warm air where needed. RoCo cuts down on the need for central AC or heat, keeping the occupants comfortable with much lower energy use. Listen to our podcast episode about the “future of cool” for more about RoCo and interviews with its creators.

PhenoRover: Seeking the Biofuel Crops of Tomorrow

Tech Showcase Demo: Tuesday, February 28, 2:00-2:20 pm


Photo courtesy of Purdue Agriculture.

Growing America’s biofuel production could seriously cut down the nation’s reliance on foreign sources of transportation fuels. But in order for biofuels to become a cost-effective energy source, we need biofuel crops that are hardier, faster-growing, and more efficient.

ARPA-E’s TERRA project teams are working on new tools to cultivate improved varieties of energy sorghum, an important biofuel crop. Awardees Purdue University and IBM will demo PhenoRover — a semi-automated, mobile sensor platform — at the 2017 ARPA-E Summit. They’ll show off the high-tech tractor’s impressive array of onboard sensing equipment that lets it quickly scan and sample entire fields of sorghum in search of the very best plants for breeding next-generation biofuel crops.

Leading Edge Hydro: A Rising Tide of Energy

Tech Showcase Demo: Tuesday, February 28, 6:00-6:20 pm


Photo courtesy of Brown University Leading Edge.

As the U.S. works to diversify its energy portfolio, cost-effective tidal power could offer another emissions-free energy option. With support from ARPA-E’s OPEN 2012 program, awardee Brown University and partner BluSource Energy took a novel approach to converting the steady, reliable flow of rising and falling tides into electricity.

Instead of a traditional rotary-type turbine, the Leading Edge technology harvests the energy of the sea using an “oscillating hydrofoil” — basically, an underwater wing that flaps up and down to drive a generator. The hydrofoil design could prove to be a flexible, low-cost option for capturing tidal energy in a wide range of environments.

About the 2017 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit

ARPA-E’s annual Energy Innovation Summit brings together leaders from business, academia, and government to advance transformational energy technologies that could fundamentally change the way we generate, use, and store energy. This year’s Summit will be held Feb. 27 through March 1, 2017 at the Gaylord Convention Center just outside of Washington, DC.

To learn more about the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, visit the event website here. For up-to-date information on ARPA-E, the Summit, and all things energy innovation, sign up for the ARPA-E Newsletter here.