Energy and the Environment


At the end of the course the student should have attained: 

The ability to discuss the tricotomy energy-society-environment and the unevenness of the world distribution and exploitation of the various energy resources, both fossile and renewable.

Knowledge and the ability to apply in discussions the statistics of fossil and renewable energies concerning Portugal and a number of notable cases in the World. 

Knowledge and the ability of in-depth discussion of the downsides of fossil fuels'''' conversion (via combustion): emission of gases with global warming potential, pollutants, as well as the finitude of fossil resources.

Knowledge of a number of strategies/techniques to improve the environmental and energy performance in the use of fossile resources and be able to relate them with the physical-chemical mehanisms of pollutant formation and the techniques and equipments for the conversion of solid, liquid and gaseous fuels.

Understanding of the fundamental principles and techniques inherent alternative sources of energy: biomass, solar, wind, hydro, tidal, wave, and nuclear. The ability to discuss the applicability and limitations of these techniques.

Skills of information processing, both autonomous and self-learning, and meeting goals.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Daniel Cardoso Vaz, José Fernando de Almeida Dias


Weekly - 4

Total - 62

Teaching language



It is assumed the knowledge of some of the matters dealt with in Física II, and desirably, know fundamentals of fluid dynamics.

The written evaluations have implicit that the student is able to express his/hers train of thought intelligibly, either in portuguese or english, and to apply the mathematical tools that are used in the course.


1. "Energy Science - Principles, Technologies, and Impacts", J. Andrews and N. Jelly, Oxford University Press, 2007.

 2. "Energia e Ambiente - apontamentos do docente"and "Energia e Ambiente - Lista de problemas propostos, 2019" - in portuguese, available in CLIP.

3. Chapters 11 to 13 of "Mechanical Engineer’s Reference Book", 12th ed., Edited by E.H. Smith, Butterworth-Heinmann, 1994. -- electronically available from within the Campus.

4. "Energy and Problems of a Technical Society", J.J. Kraushaar and R.A. Ristinen, John Wiley & Sons, 2nd. ed., 1993.

Teaching method

(If required, lessons of one of the classes can be taught in english). 

The lectures are theorectical-practical. The study matter is presented will be as interactive with the students as possible. The students are encouraged to raise questions about the topics being discussed in a lecture. Whenever found appropriate, exercises are proposed to the students with the goals: to exercise their critical thinking and ability to discuss ideas, to consolidate their use of terminology, as well as to prepare for an evaluation test.

The slides are schematic, in order to promote the importance of the sudy of the bibliographic sources; it can be said that the main study aid for this subject is the notes that the student makes for him/herself in the classroom, therefore being important to come to the classes. 

Nowadays, students have the opportunity to develop their personal work method when searching for information in "conventional" libraries, electronic libraries, or simply through navigation in the internet (webpages of well-know institutions such as IEA''''s,

Evaluation method

1 - Access to the theoretical-problem-solving component: Submission of the result of a search in online database (desirably IEA site) on recent statistics of countries notable for a particulr aspetc in energy usage, as assigned by the professor. The grade on this work (TP) contributes 15% to the final grade (NF).

2 - Assessment mode: continuous, through 4 minitests (theoretical-practical component) globally weighing the remainder 85% to the final classification.

2 - Assessment consists of 4 short tests or in the final exam.

3 - Final grade: NF = 0,15*TP + 0,15*MT1 + 0,20*MT2 + 0,25*MT3 + 0,25*MT4, or in case of exam, NF = 0,15*TP + 0,85*EX. The terms enter not rounded. NF has to be equal or greater than 9,5 for approval.

4 - The sort tests and exams are closed-book and the use of text-memory calculators is not allowed. Formulae found necessary will be given. Transgressions are subjected to what is foreseen in art. 9 of the RAC.

Subject matter

1-The importance of energy for the development of societies. Discussion of energy use statistics. Fossil fuels: their origin and worldwide distribution of the reserves. Finitude of fossil resources (Hubbert''''s oil peak). Enhanced oil recovery, shale oil and tar sands. Natural energy fluxes on Earth: the potential of alternative energy resources.

2- Fossil fuels. Pollutants. Greenhouse effect. Composition of coals, oil, and natural gas. Source descarbonization. Pollutants: effects and formation mechanisms. Combustion stoichiometry. Clean combustion techniques.

3-Renewables. Biomass: characterization, processes of densification, gasification, anaerobic digestion, alcohols and biodiesel. Solar thermal, photovoltaic. Wind: fundamentals, technologies, equipments operation. Hydropower: types of facilities and turbines. Tidal: fundamentals and tidal-dam operation. Waves: the various technologies.

4-Nuclear. Fundamentals and technology. Fission and fusion. Conventional reactors, moderators and uranium enrichening. Safety and environmental impact. Fast neutron breed reactors.

5-Other topics considered timely and relevant (e.g. hydrogen).