PHY555 - Energy and environment

Energy is one of the most critical challenges in our societies. Our daily life relies on the availability of large amounts of energy to perform all kind of transformations in all kinds of sectors (industry, transport, residential…). While this wealth of energy has enabled spectacular evolutions since the first industrial revolution, the current model hits physical constraints of the carrying capacity of our planet, as epitomized by resource exhaustion, climate change, and environmental impacts. An energy transition, chosen or not, will take place over the upcoming decades.

The aim of this physics course is to give you an overview of the energy sectors, both from production and consumption perspectives and to show how thermodynamics, and simple physics laws, can be applied to capture the main orders of magnitudes and scaling laws of the problem. A basic knowledge of basic physics, and especially thermodynamics, (undergrad level) is therefore required.

Lecture 1 : Introduction to energy, 1st and 2nd laws, key indicators (primary vs final energy, energy and power density, conversion efficiency, EROI…)

Lecture 2 : Limiting factors, oil peak & climate change

Lecture 3 : Fossile fuels (Oil, gas & coal)

Lecture 4 : Heat engines (motors and turbines)

Lecture 5 : Nuclear energy

Lecture 6 : Solar energy

Lecture 7 : Mechanical energy (wind & hydro), electrical grid stability

Lecture 8 : Heat management, from geothermy to building insulation.

Lecture 9 : Perspectives (hydrogen, batteries, CCS)


ECTS Credits :  5