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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 one of the most pressing challenges facing society, that of sustainable energy.
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)

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

  • 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

Mode of Instruction

See Brightspace

Course load

3EC equivalent to 84 hours

Assessment method

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


Registration for Brightspace occurs via uSis by registration for a class activity using a class number

Reading list

Lecture notes.


Dr. H. Papathanasiou