Physics 12 – Physics of Sustainable Energy
Energy is a major concern of our times, deeply felt by many UCLA students, who regularly read about, discuss, and vote on issues related to energy and sustainability. In fact, UC is currently engaged in a campaign to become the first carbon-neutral major university (http://www.ucop.edu/initiatives/carbon-neutrality-initiative.html). Unfortunately, students (as well as most of the general public) are not always informed about the physical processes that provide the foundations for all these arguments, debates, and choices.
The course takes a global view of the energy balance in our lives, from the point of view of physics. Students will reach a deeper understanding of the ways in which energy is used (transportation, heating, cooling), and produced, covering all the common and potential sources of energy (from fossil fuels, to solar, wind, nuclear, and fusion). Students will learn the fundamental physical limitations of each technology and will master concepts such as the efficiency of thermodynamic cycles and of chemical and nuclear reactions. Emphasis will be placed on quantitative estimates of physical phenomena as constraints and input to important social decisions. For their final assignment, students will be asked to propose a quantitative sustainable energy plan for their household, California, or the Earth, respecting the laws of physics.
This course is intended for general UCLA students and no special mathematical preparation is required beyond that necessary for admission to UCLA in freshman standing.