engineering - alternative energy curriculum

Alternative Energy Curriculum

SSC 3363 - Philosophy, Society and Energy
EGE3903 - Alternative Energy Fundamentals
EEE4943 - Power Electronics
EME4991-3 - Alternative Energy Directed Study
EME5163/6163 - Fuel Cells and Hydrogen
EME5193 - Solar and Wind Energy Generation

EME 5313 Biofuels and Biomass Energy Engineering



Course Descriptions

Philosophy, Society and Energy -SSC 3363

Philosophical and historical issues concerning energy, global warming, and sustainability as well as their consequences for society.

Alternative Energy Fundamentals -EGE3903

Energy systems play a critical role in everyday life, and as such are an important part of engineering.  This course serves as an introductory course in alternative energy.  By using historical traditional energy generation methods and by reviewing typical energy consumption patterns key concepts, terminology, definitions, and nomenclature common to all energy systems are introduced.  An overview of the major fuels and their energy content is also presented.  The pending environmental and economic consequences of using these mature (and typically fossil fuel based) energy generation technologies along with the concepts of sustainability provide the basis for the consideration of alternative energy systems.

After a basic understanding of energy systems has been laid the core component of this course begins.  A brief introduction to atmospheric science and weather provides a foundation for the study of wind and solar energy systems.  Wind and solar energy maps from the National Renewable Energy Laboratories are evaluated.  Students are provided broad insight into the energy content of wind, the Betz limit, and the design and control of wind turbines.  The electromagnetic spectrum and solar light are introduced.  The basic science of solar energy in photovoltaic and thermal systems is presented.

The nature of biomass and biofuels are also presented.  A brief review of organic chemistry provides students with an understanding of these bio-sources of fuel and their energy content.  Methods of energy extraction from biomass sources including gasification, pyrolysis, anaerobic digestion, biogas, landfills and fermentation are discussed.  Energy from agricultural residues and municipal solid wastes, as well as ethanol, vegetable oils and bio-diesel are also addressed.      

Other sources of energy are also evaluated.  Use of geothermal energy is rapidly growing in the United States.  The Carnot thermodynamic cycle and using the earth as a heat engine are reviewed.  Natural geothermal sources, as well as building integrated technologies are evaluated.  Tidal and wave energy technologies are also considered and assessed.

Fuel cells and the hydrogen economy is the last alternative energy technology reviewed in the course.  The basic science of fuel cells, the various types of fuel cells, and their operation is presented.  The need for fuel reforming and fuel processing is also evaluated, and the common methods for fuel reforming are considered.  Hydrogen generation, handling and storage are evaluated, along with the needed safety codes.

The course concludes with a general review of how to integrate these technologies into a system providing a continuous uninterrupted power stream.  A short power electronics portion of the course covers the major electrical equipment required for power transmission and power conditioning.


Power Electronics - EEE4943

This course investigates the standard power converter topologies using cycle-by-cycle averaging to model the power electronics.  The course includes the study of ac to dc  power supplies such as are used in personal computers and other electronic devices, dc to dc converters such as are used in automotive and other battery-powered applications, and dc to ac converters such as are used in the speed control of electric motors and in power inverters used to produce 110V ac from the battery of an automobile.  The course studies the component building blocks of power electronic circuits as well as design strategies and design considerations.  The course includes a brief introduction to the design of magnetic components.


Alternative Energy Directed Study - EME4991-3

This is course allows a Student to work one-on-one, or in a small group of like-minded students on a specific project, with an engineering faculty member in a self-directed manor to study specific areas of interest in the field of Alternative Energy. 

The Student will discuss the proposed Directed Study with a faculty member who may agree to act as Advisor (or the Department Chairman).  When a topic and Advisor have been determined, the student and Advisor will fill out a Directed Study request from with a detailed plan of work attached.  The Directed Study form essentially sets up a contract between the Student and the Advisor and is signed by both.  It lists a specific set of activities will be completed by the Student within the required time window for the Directed Study activities.  The time window is one academic semester.  The Student will submit the required from and the work plan to the Department Chairman who will have the final decision on acceptance of the proposal. 

Typically, undergraduate students selecting the Directed Study option in Alternative Energy will have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.25, but for certain projects a higher GPA may be required.  This variable credit course allows the Student to select the level of time and number of credits they wish to expend in this effort over the semester.  It is expected that students will work on their Directed Study effort at least four to five hours per week per credit hour selected.  Note that this is in addition to any regular meetings the Student may have with their Directed Study faculty advisor.  As the Student selects more credits there will also be a corresponding expectation of higher work effort from the Student by the Advisor.  A student selecting three credits should expect to devote at least fifteen hours per week to their Directed Study activity. 

Each student undertaking Directed Study in Alternative Energy is required to write a final report that is due on the last formal class day of the semester, and to also give a public oral presentation of their work on a pre-set and mutually agreed upon date between the Advisor and the Student.


Fuel Cells and Hydrogen - EME5163/6163

This graduate course (open to Undergraduate Seniors in Engineering) reviews the science and engineering of fuel cells and fuel processors, the generation of hydrogen and its safe handling and storage.  The course provides a brief overview and introduction to the history and background of fuel cells.  The fundamental chemistry and electrochemistry principles are addressed early and lay the foundations of understanding for the duration of the course.  Half-cell reactions, the Nernst equation, the operating electrochemical thermodynamics, along with the Butler-Volmer equation and Tafel plots are explored.  The major types of fuel cells are reviewed, and their basic designs and their key components are discussed, including ionic conducting materials, electrodes, membrane-electrode assemblies (MEA), gas diffusion layers, manifolds, and bipolar plates. 

The operation and performance of fuel cells are assessed and the various contributing components to over-potential losses in the polarization and power curves are considered.  Fuel cell systems are then discussed, including humidification, cooling, fuel and oxygen introduction, and controls.  Possible methods of system modeling are reviewed.

To address the major question “where will the hydrogen come from?” the topic of fuel reforming, and the challenges of processing gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and other hydro-carbon fuels are evaluated.  Other forms of hydrogen generation, including electrolysis, are analyzed and assessed.  The storage, handling and safety, and the use of hydrogen as a viable energy carrier are also topics.  Lastly, the evaluation of fuel cells and their efficiencies as integrated systems are assessed.

Several additional references from a variety of recent technical journals relating to fuel cells, their performance and hydrogen systems will be introduced and reviewed by students to supplement the learning process.


Solar and Wind Energy Generation - EME5193

This graduate course (open to Undergraduate Seniors in Engineering) reviews the science and engineering of solar and wind energy generation power systems.  Initial topics include an introduction to atmospheric science, weather conditions, the seasonal nature of sunlight and solar tracking, and the origins of wind and the influences of ground topography on wind conditions.  A comprehensive review of Solar and Wind energy maps provide the student an understanding of the general opportunities available for applying these renewable energy systems.

In the solar energy section of the course the topics of electromagnetic radiation spectrum, the photoelectric effect, the Stefan-Boltzmann law of radiation heat transfer, black body radiation and Solar radiation heat transfer are reviewed.  Convection and conduction heat transfer are also discussed.  Advanced passive and active solar energy system designs, and the fundamental designs of solar energy concentrators are also presented.  In the photovoltaic (PV) section of the course semiconductors, band gap theory, and photovoltaic materials (including crystalline silicon, multi-crystalline silicon, amorphous silicon, cadmium-telluride) are reviewed.  Basic DC circuits are also covered, as are the power output and typical current-voltage curves for PV systems.  The required supplemental electronic systems, including inverters and voltage regulators are described. 

The wind energy section of this course discusses the nature of wind energy, wind data, predictions and its seasonal influences.  The properties (thermal and static) of compressible fluids and fluid flow of compressible fluids are presented.  After an introduction to aerodynamics, the properties of air foils, lift, drag and the Betz limit, as well as blade theory, rotors, wind turbine design are reviewed.  The various designs of wind turbines are reviewed and their performance are analyzed.  Electric generators, voltage regulators, their system controls and how these systems integrate with the existing grid are reviewed.  Energy storage and backup supply systems are also discussed.  Finally, the economics of wind and solar energy systems concludes the course.

Biofuels and Biomass Energy Engineering
- EME 5313

 This course explores the methods and process of energy conversion using biomass materials as an energy source. A review of traditional energy technologies is presented with a review of related general chemistry and organic chemistry concepts for foundational understanding. Important concepts of photosynthesis are presented. Critical energy conversion processes related to biomass energy sources are discussed including organic substances such as woody type materials, vegetable oils from oil laden plants, agricultural and animal wastes, municipal solid wastes, pyrolysis, and ethanol production from fermented sugars, biodiesel, and the production of synthetic fuels using the Fisher-Tropsch process. Examples of energy conversion processes will be demonstrated in a laboratory setting.

Prerequisite(s): Chemistry CHM 1213 with a grade of C, or better, Physics PHY2423 with a grade of C, or better, Thermodynamics EGE 3003 with a grade of C, or better, Circuits and Electronics EEE212 with a grade of C, or better

Concurrent Prerequisite(s): None

Restriction(s): Senior or graduate in engineering standing