Module information on this degree can be found below, separated by year of study.

The module information below applies for the current academic year. The academic year runs from August to July; the 'current year' switches over at the end of July.

Students select optional courses subject to rules specified in the Mechanical Engineering Student Handbook,  for example at most three Design and Business courses. Please note that numbers are limited on some optional courses and selection criteria will apply.

Thermodynamics and Energy

Module aims

To enable students to explore advanced concepts in applied thermodynamics and energy supply, in the context of UK commitments for reduction of carbon dioxide emissions under the Kyoto protocol and other environmental, commercial and strategic constraints.

ECTS units:  6   
Contributing to Course Elements: 6 to ME3-mCORE (MEng) or ME3-hCORE (BEng)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing this module, students will be able to:

  • List commonly-accepted principles for sustainable development and factors affecting UK energy sources

  • Describe the principal features of combustion and gasification plants, including possible carbon dioxide capture options

  • Describe qualitatively other non-fossil energy technologies and undertake simple performance and economic analyses

  • Analyse and optimise performance of thermodynamics cycles and heat exchangers to convert heat from energy sources into work using the 1st and 2nd Laws

  • Assess emissions in energy production and conversion systems using thermodynamic principles and chemical equilibrium methods

  • Assess the feasibility of a power-generation system.

Module syllabus

Thermodynamic property relationships and equilibrium criteria. Revision of relevant mathematics: exact differentials, reciprocity and cyclic relations. Maxwell relations. Clausius-Clapeyron equation. Gibbs and Helmholtz functions. General differential relationships for internal energy, enthalpy and Gibbs function. Equilibrium criteria; equilibrium between phases. Some non-ideal-gas equations of state. Chemical Equilibrium.  Application of Gibbs function to chemical reactions. Incomplete reactions: criteria for chemical equilibrium, minimisation of Gibbs function, equilibrium constant. Techniques for pre- and post-combustion CO2 capture.

Introduction to fuel cells. General principles. Electrochemical reactions. Derivation of efficiency of an ideal reversible H2-O2 cell. Gibbs and Nernst potential, EMF and cell stacks. Sources of loss. Reforming of fossil fuels to H2. Fuel cell types (PEMFC, SOFC etc.) and development status. Applications, including micro-generation and transport. Fuel cell CHP.

Combustion. Flame theory and combustors. Classical premixed/non-premixed flame theory; effect of turbulence, applications and limitations of equilibrium approximations; flame stabilisation; example of finite rate effects: NOx formation mechanisms; combustor design for low thermal NOx, fuel efficiency and alternative fuels, thin flames, mixing, pollutants, effect of pollutants.

Fossil-fired power plant. General features, performance, emissions and development trends of current and future gas turbine, steam and combined-cycle (incl. IGCC) plant, combined heat and power. Exergy; exergy losses distributions. Performance calculation for selected plant (e.g. gas turbine incl. combustion, pressure losses, simple treatment of cooling air etc., and/or combined-cycle plant with single-pressure heat recovery steam generator).

Introduction to Nuclear Power: General principles; nuclear reactions; fission/fusion; chain reactions; reactor types; reactor design; reactor safety; thermodynamic efficiency.

Sustainability considerations: Environmental constraints on fossil fuel use, atmospheric CO2 concentrations and global warming predictions, emission reduction techniques, emission trading schemes. Future options for power generation (renewables, carbon capture and storage (ccs), nuclear, role of hydrogen etc.). Renewable energy: comparison with electricity from fossil fuels, introduction to technologies. CCS: timescale, pre- and post-combustion capture (outline), long-term CO2 storage, example of a large-scale project. Embedded generation, electrical network issues.

Teaching methods

  • Duration: Autumn and Spring terms
  • Lecture/Study Groups: Weekly lecture, followed by a 1 hour tutorial for alternating halves of the class.
  • Coursework: 
    • Online progress test to assess the required concepts from previous year using questions on ME2 Thermodynamics, with additional questions from ME2 Fluid Mechanics, ME2 Heat Transfer and ME2 Maths.

    • Mini-Project, set for completion over Christmas vacation, on the feasibility assessment of an installation for stationary power generation. 

Summary of student timetabled hours













32 hrs

Expected private study time

3-4hr per week (not including exam revision)


Written examinations:

Date (approx.)

Max. mark

Pass mark

Thermodynamics and Energy (3 hrs)

A Data and Formulae book and a list of Supplementary Formulae are provided.

This is a CLOSED BOOK Examination





* On aggregate with ME3-mMSD

Coursework (including progress tests, oral presentations etc.)

Submission date

Max. mark

Pass mark



Progress Test

Returned with mark/grade

week 3



Returned for viewing, with itemised marking and written comments

week 17


Total marks


Reading list


Module leaders

Dr Salvador Navarro-Martinez