The module descriptors for our undergraduate courses can be found below:

  • Four year Aeronautical Engineering degree (H401)
  • Four year Aeronautical Engineering with a Year Abroad stream (H410)

Students on our H420 programme follow the same programme as the H401 spending fourth year in industry.

The descriptors for all programmes are the same (including H411).


Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer

Module aims

The course provides a unified introduction to thermodynamics, gas dynamics, and heat transfer for students of aeronautics. It serves as a foundation for more advanced courses, particularly propulsion and aerodynamics, which are taken in the second and third years of the degree programme. 

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing this module, you should be able to:
1. Define a system as open or closed, identify transfers of work or heat to or from the system, and apply an appropriate formulation of the first law to relate energy changes to exchanges of heat and work;
2. Identify processes which would violate either the first or second laws of thermodynamics and thus discriminate processes that may be possible from those that are impossible;
3. Calculate entropy changes for an ideal gas;
4. Describe the connection between entropy and measures of order and apply Boltzmann’s entropy formula to a simple expansion process;
5. Understand the phenomenon of choking and be able to apply this to practical problems, assuming either isothermal or adiabatic conditions;
6. Identify different paths for heat transfer and apply simple energy balance relations;
7. Derive the governing equations of heat diffusion and to apply these to solve basic steady and unsteady problems of conduction and convection;
8. Define appropriate models for simple geometries, and given required data, compute the total heat transfer arising from conduction, convection or radiation, including the heat transfer from a surface bounding a stationary or moving fluid.

Module syllabus

1) Introduction and definitions:
Energy sources, Continuum state, pure substance, phase diagram, special case of a perfect gas, concepts from kinetic theory, system, control volume, properties, state of a system, cycle.
2) First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics:
- Heat, work, energy and specific heats, continuity or mass conservation. 1st Law: system and control volume formulations.
- Cyclic heat power plants, reversible processes, 2nd law of thermodynamics, the Clausius inequality and entropy, principle of increase of entropy, reversible heat engines, concept of thermodynamic probability and the Boltzmann relation, energy and the environment (concept of exergy).
3) Introductory gas dynamics:
Adiabatic, isentropic definitions, speed of sound, Mach number, steady, inviscid flow of a perfect gas, phenomenon of choking.
4) Heat Transfer:
- Radiation: Simple radiative exchange between a body and an enclosure.
- Conduction: Fourier’s Law, derivation of heat conduction equation, relation to diffusion, simple applications. 
- Convection: dimensional analysis, correlations, simple internal and external flows. 
5) Applications to problems involving one or more modes of heat transfer involving parallel and serial paths (and resistances). 

Teaching methods

The module will be delivered primarily through large-class lectures introducing the key concepts and methods, supported by a variety of delivery methods combining the traditional and the technological. The content is presented via a combination of slides, whiteboard and visualiser.

Learning will be reinforced through tutorial question sheets and laboratory exercises, featuring analytical tasks representative of those carried out by practising engineers.

You are further encouraged to visit the propulsion section of science museum in tutorial groups.


This module presents opportunities for both formative and summative assessment. 
You will be formatively assessed through progress tests and tutorial sessions.
You will have additional opportunities to self-assess your learning via tutorial problem sheets.
You will be summatively assessed by a written examination at the end of the module as well as through short tests completed online or in tutorials.

Assessment type Assessment description Weighting Pass mark
Examination Written examination 95% 40%
Examination Short on-line tests 5% 40%

You will receive feedback on examinations in the form of an examination feedback report on the performance of the entire cohort.
You will receive feedback on your performance whilst undertaking online tests and tutorial exercises, during which you will also receive instruction on the correct solution to tutorial problems.
Further individual feedback will be available to you on request via this module’s online feedback forum, through staff office hours and discussions with tutors.

Reading list