PHYSICS 6030
Energy in the 21st Century

 

Energy has long played a major role in our nation’s national security, economic prosperity, and quality of life.  Political instability in energy-producing regions like the Middle East, rising global demand for energy (especially in developing countries), and a growing awareness of the impact of fossil fuel use on global climate change has created a new urgency for an awareness of energy’s role in ensuring security, well-being, and a healthy environment in the 21st century. 

How will we change the way we produce, distribute, and consume energy?  How can we replace fossil fuels with safe, inexpensive, renewable energy like solar, wind, hydro, tidal, geothermal, biomass/biofuel, and fuel cells?  How do these renewable sources of energy work and how can we make them cheaper?  How can we burn fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal) cleaner? What about hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”; is it safe?  What are we going to do about climate change?  Can nuclear power be made safer? 

Although new technology alone is not going to meet the world’s energy challenges, developments in science and technology will substantially affect our ability to shape future energy options.  This is a science course about Energy for K-12 teachers, including non-science majors.  No physics or math prerequisite courses are required.  Physics will only be taught as a prelude for understanding how the various energy sources operate so we can make informed choices.  The math level of this course is low.

Instructor: Stephen T. Thornton, Professor of Physics
Office in room 305, physics building. Office telephone 434-924-6808. Email: stt@virginia.edu
.

Textbook: The textbook for this course will be provided to the students electronically for free. Dr. Thornton has written an Energy textbook and will post the chapters on Collab in pdf format.

Grades:

Your grade in PHYS 6030 will be determined by (subject to change):

Homework
30%
3 midterm exams
36%
Final exam
34%

This is a graduate credit class, but it is not a normal graduate level class in physics. The lowest passing grade in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences is a B-. A grade of C is considered to be a failing grade. We expect the average grade to be about a B+ or A-.

All exams (midterm and final) will be primarily multiple-choice questions with perhaps a few numerical problems. The exams will be given on the Internet service Collab or WebAssign. Homework will be submitted digitally through Collab, a UVa Internet service. For more information on how to utilize Collab, click here.

All the lectures will be provided by videos in mp4 format that can be downloaded through Collab. The lecture videos tend to be about 30 minutes long.

Homework:

Homework will be assigned and is an important part of the course. The homework will consist of answering questions, watching videos from YouTube and other sources, perhaps a small project like building a small wind turbine (from scratch or a kit), or short literature/media research projects (about two pages) on topics of current interest.

Syllabus/Lecture Topics:

Lecture
Title
1
Why Is Energy Important?
2
Issues and Challenges of Energy
3
Fossil Fuels
4
Coal Production
5
Oil Production
6
Alternative Oil Sources, Reserves
7
Natural Gas, Pipelines, Refining
8
Fossil Fuel Consumption, Production, Reserves
9
Greenhouse gases, Global Warming, Carbon Emissions, Carbon Capture & Sequestration, Cap and Trade, Pros & Cons of Fossil Fuel
10
Work and Energy
11
Heat and Temperature; Ideal Gas Law
12
Thermodynamics and Heat Engines
13
Electricity, Energy, Power
14
Magnetism, Motors, Generators
15
Hydropower
16
Solar Power Basics
17
Concentrated Solar Power
18
Photovoltaics
19
Wind Power Basics
20
Wind Turbine Placement
21
How Wind Turbines Operate
22
Geothermal Option
23
Geothermal Energy
24
Bioenergy
25
Ocean Energy - Tidal
26
Ocean Energy - Other
27
Nuclear Energy Basics
28
Nuclear Power Evolution
29
Nuclear Energy Future
30
Hydrogen Economy
31

Electrical Transmission, Infrastructure

32
Energy Storage 1
33
Energy Storage 2
34
The Future