What would you do if you had 500 air conditioning experts in a building where the a/c was a bit on the fritz and temperatures outside were in the 90s? Would you give them all wrenches and have them have a go at it? Or would you just offer basic coping tips?

The situation described was a real world one at the 18th International Compressor Engineering Conference and the 11th International Refrigeration Conference, being held jointly at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., last month.

The concurrent conferences are held every other year at Purdue and draw the top HVACR people from throughout the world to present papers on the latest developments in the industry. This year, some 500 attendees from 30 countries either presented or listened in on the presentation of 225 papers.

This year they also found out what it was like to be at a location where the chiller plant was at absolute capacity due to additional a/c load caused by new construction projects and outside temperatures in the 90s - accompanied by high humidity.

Here were attendees capable of presenting and even understanding papers with such titles as "A Simplified Numerical Methodology for the In-Cylinder Flow at the Top-Center Crank Position," "Developing Two-Phase Flow Distribution in Horizontal Headers With Downward Minichannel-Branches," and "Development of Zero ODP, Less TEWI, Binary, Ternary and Quaternary Mixtures to Replace HCFC-22 in Window Air-Conditioners."

But the only danger, of course, in asking 500 engineers for a solution to an air conditioning problem was that you would get ... (you know the punch line) ... 500 solutions.

Actually, in describing the situation to the attendees at the opening session, General Conference Chair James Braun of Purdue was more pragmatic and practical. He noted that as energy conservation measures, the university was mainly providing cooling where it was most needed and edging up the temperature settings. For example, classrooms where seminars were held were cooled to a greater extent than the corridors that were only used briefly to pass from classroom to classroom.

And in the most practical demonstration of how to cope with weather, Braun took off his suit coat and tie and declared the conference corporate casual.

Sometimes the secret to successful comfort cooling is to just keep it simple.


While highly technical talks were the order of the day, attendees took a break one evening mid-week for something completely different for many of them. Because so many of the attendees come from outside the United States, the folks at Purdue schedule what we in the States call a good old-fashioned cookout. Attendees are bused from the hallowed halls of academia to a banquet facility about 20 minutes away. It's off a side road in a wooded ravine along Burnett Creek just before the creek empties into the Wabash River.

Cold beer greets the attendees who relax outside at twilight while, of course, still talking shop about the events of the day. Then everybody heads indoors for steak, baked potato, rice, veggies, salad, dinner rolls, and ice cream and more dinner conversation which usually ends up as technical as the sessions back on campus. But it is done in a relaxing environment and becomes a meet-and-greet to rival anything the United Nations can come up with regarding international cooperation.

There is absolutely no speech making, no Power Point talks. Things wrap up early enough for everybody to get back to hotels to be ready for the next day events. (And frankly one other advantage of hosting a conference in West Lafayette, Ind., in the middle of summer is that there is not the kind of nightlife to cause conference attendees to wander off until all hours and end up sleep-deprived for the next day.) The cookout is sponsored by Emerson Climate Technologies who obviously discovered that international goodwill and positive imaging can be done in a low-key, relaxing manner.

For those interested in the very latest in industry technology (and wanting to sample a cookout with worldwide implications) might want to note the dates of the next two concurrent compressor and RAC conferences at Purdue - July 14-17, 2008, and July 12-15, 2010. Each is preceded by two days of short courses; meaning one could immerse oneself in up to six days of learning each time.

Publication date: 08/07/2006