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Physical Science 431

PHSC 431

Catalog Entry

PHSC 431. Energy and the Environment
Three hours lecture (3).

Prerequisites: PHYS 112 or PHYS 222 or PHSC 122 or CHEM 102.

A study of energy, its many forms and uses, how it is converted from one form to another, and the environmental consequences of that conversion.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

1. The Nature of Energy

        a. Different Forms of Energy

            1) Potential Energy
            2) Kinetic Energy
            3) Thermal Energy
            4) Nuclear Energy - Mass Conversion

        b. Conversion of Energy From One Form to Another
        c. The Principle of Conservation of Energy
        d. Power

2. Energy Use in the United States and the World

        a. Amounts
        b. Forms
        c. Fuels
        d. Fuel Reserves
        e. Growth Rate of Energy Usage - Exponential Growth
        f. Implications for the Future - Estimating Supplies and Projecting Demand

3. Thermal Energy

        a. Temperature and Heat Flow
        b. Specific Heat
        c. Latent Heat
        d. The First Law of Thermodynamics - Conservation of Energy Again
        e. The Second Law of Thermodynamics - The Difficulty of transforming thermal energy into mechanical energy - Carnot efficiency.

4. Some Major Uses of Thermal Energy in the U.S.

        a. Space Heating

            1) Furnace Efficiencies
            2) Degree - Days
            3) Electric Heat

        b. Transportation

            1) The Internal Combustion Engine

        c. Electric Power Generation

            1) Electric Charge and Electrical Potential Energy
            2) Voltage, Current, and Electric Power
            3) Ohm's Law - Electric Energy Converted into Thermal Energy
            4) Faraday's Law - Converting Mechanical Energy into Electrical Energy, and vice-versa
            5) Transformers and the Transmission of Electric Energy

5. Steam Electric Generating Plants

        a. Oil and Coal as Fuel - Combustion Products

            1) Disposal
2) Environmental Effects

        b. Efficiencies
        c. Waste Heat - "Thermal Pollution"

            1) Amounts Produced
            2) Disposal - Direct Discharge, Holding Ponds, Cooling Towers
            3) Environmental Effects

6. Nuclear Electric Generating Plants

        a. Mass-Energy Equivalence
        b. Nuclear Fission and Fusion
c. The Nuclear Reactor

            1) Design
            2) Operation
            3) Fuels

        d. Safety and Environmental Concerns

7. Other Electric Power Generating Techniques

        a. Hydroelectricity

8. Uses of Electricity in the Home

        a. Refrigeration Devices
        b. Devices to Produce Heat
        c. Motors
        d. Other Electrical Devices
        e. Costs of Electricity
        f. Patterns of Electrical Energy Usage
        g. Outline of Problems in Electrical Generation

            1) Demand Patterns
            2) Construction of facilities
            3) Routing High Voltage Lines

9. Energy Use in Transportation

        a. Private Autos
        b. Public Transportation

            1) Trains
            2) Airplanes
            3) Buses

        c. Commercial Transportation

            1) Trucks
            2) Trains

10. Alternatives to the Internal Combustion Engine

        a. Electric Motors
        b. Flywheel Cars
        c. Recent Developments

11. An examination of how each of the above impinges upon the environment occurs as each is studied. Issues related to science, technology, and society are examined when appropriate.
12. Alternative Energy Sources of the Future

        a. Solar Energy

            1) Space Heating
            2) Hot Water Heating
            3) Refrigeration
            4) Design Problems
            5) The Problem of Storage

        b. Wind Power
        c. Tidal Power
        d. Ocean Thermal Gradients
        e. Fusion Power

13. Research Into a Specific Aspect of the Energy Problem


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

Many of the concepts are developed experimentally. Some are presented by lecture. Discussion is used to reinforce concepts. Student presentations are used to report the findings of their research topics.


Goals and Objectives of Course

The student is expected:

1. To investigate the basic methods of energy production, conversion, distribution, and storage;
2. To investigate how the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics are related to energy efficiency of production, conversion, distribution, storage, and to current energy use;
3. To investigate the growth of energy usage, the distribution of energy reserves, and energy usage in the United States and the world;
4. To examine the environmental impact of production, usage, and distribution of energy;
5. To investigate how energy sources and consumption affect land use, population distribution, living patterns and standards, and political structures and power.


Assessment Measures

Paper and pencil tests are used to ascertain concept and selected process development. Results of student experiments and faculty observation are used to determine other process skills.


Other Course Information

In consultation with the instructor, those seeking graduate credit will research a topic and present the results to the class.



September 24, 2001 - Reviewed by Walter S. Jaronski, Chair