Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Energy and the Environment
Academic Year
Semester 2
Mutually Exclusive
None - module is highly suitable for non Physics students
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 22 x 1 Hour Lectures


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Course Work  1 assessed exercise 25% 1 short essay 25% 1 multiple choice test 50%  100%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   Supplementary exam  100%

Learning Outcomes

After taking this module students should be able to:

  • state the principle of the conservation of energy and apply it to a variety of energy conversions - make use of the fact that energy can be transferred or converted from one form to another and relate the energy transferred to an object by the force exerted on the body and the distance it moves
  • recognise the function of the basic components of a conventional power station, whether driven by coal, oil or nuclear power
  • describe the mode of operation of hydroelectric, tidal and wind turbines
  • be able to make a balanced assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of different methods of generating electricity
  • be familiar with UK and global energy outlooks and policy
  • describe the basic processes underlying global warming problems
  • understand the basics of climate modelling and operate a simple model.

Brief description

Energy is a vital resource in our society. Its use and misuse has implications for the environment, and these issues have assumed dramatic proportions recently. This module discusses the fundamental physics behind energy resources, both conventional and alternative, in order to provide a balanced view of environmental implications. In this approach, the interdisciplinary nature of the subject is evident, and the module gives special emphasis to modelling changes in the atmosphere - including the greenhouse effect. The module is suitable for undergraduates of any discipline.


Basic Physics:
Energy and Power. Conservation of Energy. Forms of energy. Energy conversion
Theory of heat engines and the laws of thermodynamics
Heat engines and heat pumps
Energy sources and environmental impacts: Wind and water power
Energy sources and environmental impacts: Fossil fuels. External and internal combustion engines, thermal efficiency
Energy sources and environmental impacts: Nuclear energy, fission and fusion
Energy sources and environmental impacts: Solar energy
Energy sources and environmental impacts: Geothermal energy
Use of energy in society. Energy usage and availability. "Peak oil".

Environmetal Issues:
Environmental risks of nuclear power
Environmental consequences of burning fossil fuels:
(i) Basic meteorology of burning plumes
(ii) Acid rain
(iii) Global warming: basic principles and feedback mechanisms
(iv) Principles of Climate Modelling.

Sustainability of energy use, environmental impacts and implications.

Transferable skills

Introductory skills for using the Internet and other electronic sources of information.


This module is at CQFW Level 4