ECEN 4555/5555 – Principles of Energy Systems & Devices

Fall 2020 – MWF 4:10-5:00 PM

Professor G. Moddel

Please check the announcements and schedule regularly – Last update: 19 Oct 2020



  • Sophie Kirkman found this article on the all the ingenious and crazy ways people are thinking of to store offshore renewable energy.
  • The starred homework problems are worth extra credit for undergrads
  • For women in engineering activities, see this.
  • It turns out I wasn’t exaggerating when I said gasoline powered cars are about to become history. California just declared a ban!
  • This is the Improved Mazda engine technology that I mentioned in class.
  • The question of whether thermodynamic entropy is equivalent to information entropy was raised briefly in class.  It is a subject that is still being argued about. My view, based on operationalism (developed by my professor’s professor), is that since they are mathematically equivalent, and they resolve the Maxwell’s demon conundrum, their equivalence passes the duck test.  



General Course Information



Individual issues


Sample first exam   Solution







Aug 24

General introduction

Reading: Air-powered car and here and  here

Aug 26  Gas compression

Reading: Ch. 1

Aug 28  Heat capacity


Aug 31   Enthalpy and thermal conductivity

HW1 due .

Sep 2   Statistical approach

Reading:  Ch. 2

Sep 4    Elements of quantum mechanics

Reading: Appendix A


Sep 7  Labor Day. No class

Sep 9  Never

HW2 due

Sep 11  Defining entropy


Sep 14 Temperature

Reading: Maxwell’s Demon, & start Ch. 3

HW3 due

Sep 16  Chemical potential & pressure

Reading: Ch. 3

Sep 18  Gas expansion


Sep 21  Heat engines

Reading: Ch. 4  Carnot cycle

steam engine

HW4 due

Sep 23  Internal combustion engines

Sep 25  Refrigerators


Sep 28

Absorption refrigerator

HW5 due

Sep 30  Joule-Thomson coefficient

Oct 2   Electrolysis and cold fusion (LENR)

Cold fusion introduction by Matt McConnell,

co-founder of Coolescence


Oct 5  Fuel cells (e.g., for trains)

Reading: 5.1-5.2 Chemical thermodynamics; green hydrogen production

Hydrogen storage introduction by Natasha Wischmeyer

HW6 due

Oct 7

Reading (skim to understand main issues and types of storage);

Batteries & electrochemical capacitors

Oct 9

A better lithium-ion battery  more here

Introduction to silicon electrodes for lithium batteries by

Dylan McNally


Oct 12   

Reading: 5.3 through p. 179 Phase transformations

Optional reading: Structure of water versus this
HW7 due

Oct 14   Coexistence

Oct 16  


Oct 19     Midterm exam – remote synchronous mode

Covers material through HW7

Oct 21     Rain

Reading: Gaia and cloud seeding


Oct 23    Boltzmann factor & Partition function

Reading: Ch. 6 (can omit pp. 232-241) Boltzmann factor and the

 partition function


Oct 26   Maxwell speed distribution

HW8 due

Oct 28

Oct 30

Reading: Ch. 7.1-7.2 Gibbs factor & distribution functions


Nov 2 

HW9 due

Nov 4   Fermi-Dirac and Bose-Einstein distributions

Nov 6   Degenerate Fermi gas

Reading: Ch. 7.3 (can omit pp. 283-284) Electrons in solids


Nov 9   Density of states

HW10 due

Nov 11  Semiconductor statistics

Required reading  (in reading, tau = kT)

(can omit Degenerate Semiconductors, pp.365-368)

Nov 13


Nov 16

HW11 due                               

Nov 18

Reading: Ch. 7.4 Blackbody radiation

Optional reading: Fractional bandwidth normalizaation

Nov 20  Light efficiency


Nov 23  Radiation entropy & pressure; arrow of time

HW12 due

Nov 25  Radiation flux, detailed balance

The origin of color

Nov 27 

Thanksgiving. No class.


Nov 30   Greenhouse effect

Optional reading: Harvesting radiant energy from

the Earth

HW13 due

Dec 2  Dualism in physical law

Dec 4  New energy

Also video: New Energy Technologies: What Can We Believe?


Dec 7  Zero-point energy

Optional reading: Extraction of Zero-Point Energy from the Vacuum





Dec 12 (Saturday) 

Final exam