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Only IA-level physics is a prerequisite; those who have experience of solid-state physics will find some parts of the course more straightforward, but the material will be taught and examined such that no prior knowledge in this area is required.
Learning Outcomes and Assessment
This interdisciplinary course looks at the physical concepts and challenges concerning energy generation, storage and use. The course aims to develop knowledge of the basic physical principles governing renewable energy materials and devices. It will develop skills in using simple quantitative estimates for a wide range of renewable energy problems to give a fact-based approach the energy questions.
Energy requirements and energy use
- Energy cost of transport of people and freight.
- Exergy and exergy efficiency.
Alternatives to fossil fuels
- Intro to the science of climate change
- Availability of renewable energy
- nuclear, wind, geothermal, solar, wave, tide – scale required
- Energy density: Petrol, coal, biofuel, hydro, nuclear
- AC vs DC electricity
- Heat engines, heat pumps, ACs
Semiconductor Crash Course
- Semiconductor electronic structure
- Tight-binding band structure.
- Optical properties (direct and indirect gaps, excitons)
- Interaction with light. Excitons. Electrons and holes.
Solar Energy – 1 - How nature powers the biosphere
- Structure and optoelectronic operation.
- Charge separation and recombination.
- Solar Fuels including hydrogen
Solar Energy – 2 – Manufactured solutions
- Solar concentration
- Solar thermal
- The p-n junction.
- PV devices operation
Solar Energy – 3 – Next generation technologies
- Electrical properties; silicon, III-V semiconductors, 2D semiconductors and heterostructures.
- Si, Perovskites, III-Vs
- Tandems, MEG etc.
Electrochemistry Crash Course
- Galvanic cells and electrodes
- Half and full cell reactions
- Charge transport
- Potentials and thermodynamics – relationship to structure
Energy Storage - 1
- Requirements and specifications
- Metrics – energy density, power density, rate capacity
- Fly wheels, pumped, electrochemical, chemical and comparison with fossil fuels and back of the envelope calculations
Energy Storage – 2
- Electrochemical energy storage
- Batteries – lead acid, Li-ion and beyond
Energy Storage - 3
- Fuel cells. principles of operation, materials challenges
- Hydrogen storage, materials challenges
- Hydrogen vs. electric vehicles.
Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air, Mackay D J C (UIT Cambridge 2009)
The Physics of Solar Cells, Nelson J (Imperial 2003)
Molecular Mechanisms of Photosynthesis, Blankenship R E (Blackwell 2002)
Modern Batteries, Colin Vincent and Bruno Scrosati, Arnold, 2nd Edition (1997)