Module Information

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

Course Delivery



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 Assessment Repeat failed components  (for supplementary assessment)  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Describe the basic processes underlying global warming problems.
2. Identify the basics of climate modelling and employ a simple model.
3. Recognise the function of the basic components of a conventional power station, whether driven by coal, oil or nuclear power.
4. Describe the mode of operation of hydroelectric, tidal and wind turbines.
5. Compare the advantages and disadvantages of different methods of generating electricity.
6. Outline the UK and global energy outlooks and policy.

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.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Adaptability and resilience .


This module is at CQFW Level 4