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PHYS 575, Spring '15

Physics of Renewable* Energy Sources

Last Updated:  2/25/2015

  Course information
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Preliminary - changes likely before class begins - revisit later
Our course has two sections, both meet together:
Section A: SLN 18412, for non-PCE students
Section B: PCE registration number 145198, for PMSP and GNM students
NOTE: section C is a completely different course!

* We'll use the term "renewable" loosely (although in principle breeder reactors are "renewable sources"); a more accurate description would be "alternatives to fossil-based energy sources".

Textbook (required):
(will be available in the U. Bookstore)

Energy Science: Principles, Technologies, and Impacts, 2nd Edition
John Andrews and Nick Jelley
Paperback: 412 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Language: English

A copy will be on reserve at the
A used copy of the first edition may be adequate, although some new material will be missing, and chapter/section numbers will differ from those on the course calendar.

General information
Review of thermodynamics and applications to energy generation and transport; review of fluid mechanics and applications to wind and wave energy sources; electrical power generation and distribution, direct and indirect solar energy conversion; review of nuclear physics and applications to new ideas in nuclear fission power systems, and nuclear fusion power*.

This course will combine lectures with a seminar-discussion format. Specific topics covered may vary to reflect the interests of students.

Class meetings will be Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7:00-8:50 pm in PAA A110. We will meet in the classroom on Tuesdays.

However, the Thursday evening meetings will also be offered online. You may attend class from home, work, your favorite wifi hotspot, or any other internet-connected site, using your usual web browsers. Adobe Connect software required is provided by PCE; we will discuss how to connect in class.  Students who prefer to attend in person may join the me in A-110 PAB as usual.

You will be expected to make 2 brief, informal reports and presentations,  on topics you have chosen to investigate. Best is to propose a topic that is of special interest to you. (see list of suggested topics below for ideas but feel free to propose your own ideas). Reports should be at least a 15 min presentation, or equivalent term paper content, and should go beyond the depth we reach in class on some relevant topic. The 2nd report should be on a separate topic, but may be related to your first topic (eg 1=fission power, 2=fusion power)
  • Submit your proposed topic for Report 1 to me by email on or before April 23, and for Report 2 on or before May 14.  Purpose: to make sure you get started!
  • Report 1 is due May 7, 2015, and Report 2 is due May 28, 2015. Send your .ppt, .doc or .pdf file or equivalent to me by email on or before those dates. We will take time in class on those dates to hear student presentations.
Topic suggestions
These are basic, feel very free to invent your own topics!
Tidal power systems in operation (ie, beyond R&D or prototype phase)
Wave power systems in operation
Wind power systems in operation
Unusual solar power systems
Practical biomass energy sources (ie, not requiring subsidies to break even)
New technologies (R&D or proto phase) for photovoltaics
New and proposed (R&D phase) battery technologies
New ideas for fission reactors
Fusion power approaches most likely to yield results
Reality and hype in green energy technology
Public policy initiatives supporting green technology
Public relations problems for renewable energy sources
Public relations problems for nuclear energy vs actual hazards (NOT "actual" according to power companies, or government agencies tied to them, but according to reliable academic studies)

Please check again later for further info.




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