No handouts have yet been uploaded this year.
You may wish to search for handouts for previous years.

(Course description last updated for academic year 2017-18).

 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.
  • Lighting
  • Computing


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


Energy Transmission

  • AC vs DC electricity
  • Pipelines
  • 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.
  • Doping


Solar Energy – 1 - How nature powers the biosphere

  • Structure and optoelectronic operation.
  • Charge separation and recombination.
  • Efficiencies
  • 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
  • Supercapacitors


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)