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Physics of Energy


Admission Requirements

An1(na), An2(na); Statistical Physics 1 recommended but not required


In this course you develop a Physicist's toolkit to understanding (sustainable) energy resources: You get a working knowledge of Thermodynamics and you are introduced to Hydrodynamics.
The fundamentals of the course would appeal to the theoretically inclined: the Thermodynamics is presented in its theoretical framework (with proofs and derivations where applicable); it is the only course at BSc level that deals with Hydrodynamics and non-linear differential equations. However, the emphasis is in making these tractable and on applying them to representative problems (in lectures and exercises) and to one of the most pressing challenges facing society, that of sustainable energy (in project work).
In particular, the course tackles:

  • the fundamentals of Thermodynamics and how these apply to energy extraction (e.g., efficiencies of heat engines and forms of energy)

  • the hydrodynamic equations and their simplified versions that are applicable to power from wind and water.

  • energy transport (conduction, convection, radiation)
    Further, there is room for a special topic among: waves, stellar structure or a suitable topic of interest suggested by the class.

The material is treated in lectures and exercise classes. You apply the framework to a sustainable energy source in a group project.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of the course you will be able to

  • State the Thermodynamic laws and apply them to classical thermal cycle problems

  • Derive and apply Thermodynamic relations to describe gasses

  • Analyze and characterize fluid flows and work out problems of elementary hydrodynamics

  • Use dimensional analysis to gain insight into hydrodynamic equations and different energy sources and energy conversion systems.

  • Calculate the energy efficiency of energy conversion stages.

  • Use Thermodynamic potentials, derive and apply Maxwell's relations

  • Have an understanding of the phase transitions of water and the operation of steam engines.

  • Calculate energy gains from energy sources.

  • Calculate energy losses due to different transport mechanisms.

  • Make estimates of resources requirements of different energy extraction technologies.

  • Evaluate the merit of different energy sources based on quantitative comparisons.

Transferable skills

You will

  • Work in groups.

  • Work on a project (case study) unsupervised, to clear goals, plan and deadlines

  • Identify relevant trade literature and use it selectively

  • Prepare a report of an analysis

  • Present the report in class

  • Create a exam-type question/problem on the topics of the course.


For detailed information go to Timetable in Brightspace

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of Instruction

See Brightspace

Course load

6EC equivalent to 168 hours

Assessment method

Exam (70%); project work (case study, report, and presentation) (30%)

Reading list

Lecture notes.


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.
Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Dr. H. Papathanasiou