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Part III Options: Interdisciplinary courses

IDP1: Atmospheric Chemistry and Global Change

This course is hosted by and based in the Department of Chemistry

Prof. John Pyle, Prof. Markus Kalberer, Dr Schmidt and others

This course looks at global change from the perspective of atmospheric composition and its linkage to the climate system. Issues covered include the fundamental photochemical and dynamical processes which control atmospheric composition and structure, and how they would differ in a modified climate. The course is designed to complement the material covered in Course I2 The Earth System and Climate Change, although either course can be taken independently. The course will be lectured and examined in a way that assumes no prior knowledge for those taking the course. Examination questions will be based on both core and specialist lectures.

Core lectures (12)

Atmospheric composition and structure. Stratospheric and tropospheric chemical processes.

Climate change.

Major stratospheric catalytic cycles of NOx, HOx, ClOx and BrOx. Atmospheric aerosol and heterogeneous chemistry. Ozone depletion in the Antarctic, Arctic and middle latitudes. Future O3 trends.

Tropospheric ozone and tropospheric oxidation processes, including the importance of the OH radical. The ozone balance - the role of NOx and hydrocarbons.

Past climates – how this influenced the composition of past atmospheres and what they can tell us about future changes.

Greenhouse gases. Radiative balance. Climate change and the links between atmospheric chemistry and climate.

Specialist lectures

The impact of volcanic eruptions on the atmosphere and climate. (Dr Marie Edmonds, EarthSciences)

Ice cores and global change (Prof. Eric Wolff, Earth Sciences)

The Role of aerosols in climate (Dr Michael Herzog, Geography)

The carbon cycle (Dr Andrew Friend, Geography)

Recommended books

R. P. Wayne, Chemistry of Atmospheres, Third Edition (2000), OUP. [QC879.6.W39]
G. P. Brasseur, J. J. Orlando and G. S. Tyndall, Atmospheric Chemistry and Global Change, (1999),
OUP. [QC879.6.A86]
T. E. Graedel and P. J. Crutzen, Atmospheric Change - An Earth System Perspective, (1993) W. H.
Freeman and Co (New York). [QC981.8.G73]
B. J. Finlayson-Pitts and J. N. Pitts, Jr Chemistry of the upper and lower atmosphere, Academic Press.
D. J. Jacob, Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry, (2004) Princeton University Press. [QC879.6.J33]

The following two items contains useful introductory material:
J. T. Houghton, Global warming, the complete briefing, (2004), CUP. [QC981.8.G56.H68] International Panel on Climate Change.

IDP2: Geological Carbon Cycle and Long Term Climate Change

Sasha Turchyn

16 1-hour lectures

Examination: 1.5 hour exam that will have a 1 hour essay and a 30 minute calculation based question. The 1 hour essay will be out of a choice of three essays and the 30 min calculation question will be compulsory.


IDP3: Renewable energy: concepts, materials, and device physics

This course is given by the Department of Physics

Felix Deschler, Siân Dutton, Akshay Rao

This interdisciplinary course looks at the physical concepts and challenges concerning energy generation, storage and use. The course aims to develop knowledge of the basic physical principles governing renewable energy materials and devices. It will develop skills in using simple quantitative estimates for a wide range of renewable energy problems to give a fact-based approach the energy questions. Only IA-level physics is a prerequisite; those who have experience of solid-state physics will find some parts of the course more straightforward, but the material will be taught and examined such that no prior knowledge in this area is required.

Energy requirements and energy use

  • Energy cost of transport of people and freight.
  • Exergy and exergy efficiency.
  • Lighting
  • Computing

Alternatives to fossil fuels

  • Intro to the science of climate change
  • Availability of renewable energy
  • nuclear, wind, geothermal, solar, wave, tide – scale required
  • Energy density: Petrol, coal, biofuel, hydro, nuclear

Energy Transmission

  • AC vs DC electricity
  • Pipelines
  • Heat engines, heat pumps, ACs

Semiconductor Crash Course

  • Semiconductor electronic structure
  • Tight-binding band structure.
  • Optical properties (direct and indirect gaps, excitons)
  • Interaction with light. Excitons. Electrons and holes.
  • Doping.

Solar Energy – 1 - How nature powers the biosphere

  • Structure and optoelectronic operation.
  • Charge separation and recombination.
  • Efficiency.
  • Solar Fuels including hydrogen

Solar Energy – 2 – Manufactured solutions

  • Solar concentration
  • Solar thermal
  • The p-n junction.
  • PV devices operation

Solar Energy – 3 – Next generation technologies

  • Electrical properties; silicon, III-V semiconductors, 2D semiconductors and heterostructures.
  • Si, Perovskites, III-Vs
  • Tandems, MEG etc.

Electrochemistry Crash Course

  • Galvanic cells and electrodes
  • Half and full cell reactions
  • Charge transport
  • Potentials and thermodynamics – relationship to structure

Energy Storage - 1

  • Requirements and specifications
  • Metrics – energy density, power density, rate capacity
  • Fly wheels, pumped, electrochemical, chemical and comparison with fossil fuels and back of the envelope calculations

Energy Storage – 2

  • Electrochemical energy storage
  • Batteries – lead acid, Li-ion and beyond
  • Supercapacitors

Energy Storage - 3

  • Fuel cells. principles of operation, materials challenges
  • Hydrogen storage, materials challenges
  • Hydrogen vs. electric vehicles.

Recommended books

Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air, Mackay D J C (UIT Cambridge 2009)
The Physics of Solar Cells, Nelson J (Imperial 2003)
Molecular Mechanisms of Photosynthesis, Blankenship R E (Blackwell 2002)
Modern Batteries, Colin Vincent and Bruno Scrosati, Arnold, 2nd Edition (1997)


A total of 3 supervisions will be offered, in groups of up to 10.