The University of Southampton

SESG6041 Introduction to Energy Technologies, Environment and Sustainability

Module Overview

This module covers energy conversion fundamentals and technologies whilst relating these elements to sustainability. This module looks at energy from social, environmental and economic perspectives.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are to develop an understanding of energy conversion fundamentals and technologies. To provide a broad overview of the current status of important issues surrounding energy supply and demand, to be studied in more depth in the pathways of the MSc programmes. Highlight the issue of sustainability across social, environmental and economic sectors in relation to energy.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Fundamentals of energy and principles of energy conversion
  • Principles of heat engines, fuel cells, photovoltaic cells, electromechanical generators
  • Pros and cons of different renewable energy technologies
  • Environmental and social impact of energy technologies
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Think, observe, communicate, evaluate information and data, analyse and solve problems
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Possess the basic skills to work in energy and related industry or the government
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Search and critically review technical literature
  • Analyse complex energy systems
  • Compare different engineering technologies from various perspectives
  • Write an essay on a technical topic


WEEK 0 (16 Lectures) – introduction and fundamentals: • Intro – Module Explanation. Context – Where We Are Now … Urbanisation, Petropolis …Pollution etc – Concept of Sustainability (Social, Economic and Environmental) - CO2 (3). • Energy Fundamentals + Heat Engines (5) Definition of heat engines. Principles of heat engines. Types of heat engines: steam engines, internal combustion engines, gas turbine engines, etc. Heat, mechanical work and entropy. Ideal and real engine cycles. Cycle efficiency. Cogeneration. Combustion fundamentals. • Electrochemical, Electromechanical and Solar Energy Conversion (4) Definitions of batteries, fuel cells, redox flow cells. Principle of fuel cells. Principles of electromechanical energy conversion. Efficiency of electrical networks. Solar radiation. Electromagnetic energy. Solar spectra. Scattering and absorption. The greenhouse effect. Types of solar energy conversion: photosynthesis, thermal electrical conversion, photochemical conversion, photoelectrical conversion. Introduction to photovoltaic cells. Energy storage. • Energy from the Environment (4) Importance of renewable energies. Wind power. Hydropower and tidal power. Nuclear fission and fusion. Biomass. Geothermal power. Economics of energy technologies. Social and environmental impact. Review of fundamental fluid mechanics associated with environmental flows from wind, wave and tide. WEEK 1-4 (14 Lectures or Equiv.) – policy and economics in energy: • The Politics Perspective (Clare Saunders, Uni. Exeter). • Government Policy. • Other Speakers On Policy. • Economics of Energy (Guest Lectures / Transport Economics).

Special Features

Week zero component

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The teaching methods employed in the delivery of this module include: • Lectures. • Seminars. • Demonstrations and video material when appropriate. • Scheduled tutorials for student groups to develop assignment study. • Guest lectures. The learning activities include: • Individual reading of background material and course texts, plus work on examples. • Web based problems (via Blackboard). • Field trips if these can be scheduled with the level of student numbers.

Completion of assessment task20
External visits5
Wider reading or practice50
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

T. Markvart. Solar Electricity. 

Sustainable Energy – without the hot air.

Twidell, J. & Weir, A., (2006). Renewable energy resources. 

BE Milton. Thermodynamics, Combustion and Engines. 

JB Heywood. Internal Combustion Engine Fundamentals. 


Assessment Strategy



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 20%
Group Assignment 50%
Group energy challenge 15%
Group Report Presentation 15%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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