Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Climate Solutions Lab

The Science and Technology of Energy

Brown University



Prof. Derek Stein

Undergraduate seminar

Documentary Video / Films,Group projects

Energy plays a fundamental role in our society. Its use underlies improvements in the living standard; the consequences of its use are having a significant impact on the Earth’s climate; its scarcity in certain forms is a source of insecurity and political conflict. This course will introduce students to the fundamental laws that govern energy and its use. Physical concepts will be discussed in the context of important technological applications of energy. The physical concepts include mechanical energy, thermodynamics, the Carnot cycle, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, and nuclear physics. The technological applications include wind, hydro, and geothermal energy, engines and fuels, electrical energy transmission and storage, solar energy and photovoltaics, nuclear reactors, and biomass. The goals of this course are to build an understanding of the fundamental principles that govern energy and constrain its production, distribution, interconversion, and consumption; provide and overview of the world’s dominant energy technologies; introduce students to current research directions in energy science and technology; and develop the scientific literacy that students require to follow and participate in current policy debates on energy. This last goal is reinforced with in-class student presentations on timely energy-related subjects. For example, what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following the Tohoku earthquake of 2011?