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Energy: Thermodynamics in Everyday Life

Understand the laws of thermodynamics – and how they govern how we use and lose energy everyday – in this free online course.

11,001 enrolled on this course

Real World Thermodynamics
  • Duration

    5 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Energy is essential to life at many levels and its transformation from one form to another – whether in the cells of our bodies or the machines that enable modern society – is governed by the laws of thermodynamics.

This free online course provides you with an introduction to these laws, and the application of thermodynamics to both everyday examples and issues of global concern.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the course can visit our Thermodynamics Facebook page

Thermodynamics, sustainability and nature’s limits

Over five weeks, you will explore some of the challenges associated with energy supply and consumption. You will also perform simple experiments in your kitchen, to develop your appreciation of the significance of the laws of thermodynamics. These will help you discover new ways of thinking about energy, and how we use it and lose it.

Gaining new perspectives on the sustainable energy debate is an important skill you will develop, and this will help you to comprehend how we are limited by the laws of nature. You will also discuss new research that explores the boundaries of these limitations.

Understand thermodynamics with a global network of learners

You will learn with me, Eann Patterson, the AA Griffith Chair of Structural Materials and Mechanics at the University of Liverpool. I will bring my experience of teaching and lecturing in the UK, USA and China, and give you the chance to work alongside University of Liverpool undergraduates, who will be taking this online course as part of their degree course.

If you are interested in reading more before the course starts, you can find background information in Peter Atkin’s book “The Entropy Vector: Connecting Science and Business”, although this is not compulsory. You can also visit my blog.

Develop your skills or career as an engineer

The knowledge you gain from this course may prompt you to consider a career as a professional engineer.

You may even wish to take your learning further, with the University of Liverpool’s Mechanical Engineering or Aerospace Engineering degrees.

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What topics will you cover?

Zeroth law of thermodynamics: thermal equilibrium; temperature as a measure of thermal equilibrium; temperature scales; introduction to statistical thermodynamics.

Energy conservation: energy as capacity to do work; first law of thermodynamics applied to a system.

Thermodynamic systems: national energy efficiency; systems terminology; enthalpy; specific heat capacity; forms of work; working cycles.

Energy Flows: heat transfer (conduction, convection & radiation); Liedenfrost effect; steady flow energy equation; application in jet engine and hair dryer.

Machines & efficiency: Clausius statement of second law; irreversible processes; power cycles; refrigerators and heat pumps; entropy decay. Available energy: spontaneous change; Gibbs’ Energy; Coupled processes; isentropic functions.

Third law and beyond: superconductivity; approaching absolute zero; beyond absolute zero.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Demonstrate basic knowledge and understanding of the implications of the zeroth, first, second and third laws of thermodynamics
  • Demonstrate elementary skills in defining a thermodynamic system and analysing its energy content and transfers (energy accounting)
  • Demonstrate rudimentary knowledge, understanding and skills in assessing efficiency and identifying losses in energetic processes
  • Demonstrate an awareness of statistical thermodynamics

Who is the course for?

The course is aimed at anyone with a need or desire to learn more about the laws governing energy. Some knowledge of physics and mathematics will be assumed.

Who will you learn with?

Engineer, educator & author. I hold the AA Griffith Chair in Structural Materials & Mechanics at the University of Liverpool. Read my blog at RealizeEngineering.Wordpress.com to find out more.

Who developed the course?

University of Liverpool

The University of Liverpool is ranked in the top 1% of higher education institutions worldwide.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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