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Introduction to Thermodynamics: Transferring Energy from Here to There

In this course, you will learn how to characterize the energy state of a system and the mechanisms for transferring energy from one system to another. These are the tools necessary to understand stationary and transportation power systems from small scale, like batteries, to large scale, like nuclear power plants.


Course at a Glance

About the Course

This course will provide you with an introduction to the most powerful engineering principles you will ever learn: thermodynamics! Or the science of transferring energy from one place or form to another place or form.  We will introduce the tools you need to analyze energy systems from solar panels, to engines, to insulated coffee mugs.

More specifically, we will cover the topics of mass and energy conservation principles; first law analysis of control mass and control volume systems; properties and behavior of pure substances; and applications to thermodynamic systems operating at steady state conditions. 

Course Syllabus

View the Syllabus

Recommended Background

Students should have some background in Chemistry, Calculus, and Algebra.

Suggested Readings

Free textbooks and online resources:

1. U.S. Department of Energy Fundamentals Handbook Thermodynamics, Heat Transfer and Fluid Flow, Volume 1 of 3.  This text can be found at a number of different links; some of which are more stable than other.  Several links are provided below.

2. Thermodynamics and Chemistry, 2^nd Edition, by Howard DeVoe, Associate Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland:

3. There are several free and for purchase online calculators for thermodynamic properties.  The follow links are provided to free calculators for steam and other fluids properties:

Good reference textbook that is not free:

Fundamentals of Thermodynamics by Sonntag, Borgnakke, and Van Wylen, Sixth Edition, John Wiley & Sons, 2003.

Course Format

The class consists of lecture videos, which are typically 8 and 12 minutes in length. The videos include several integrated quiz questions per video. There are also homework problems to practice your analytical skills that are not part of video lectures.There are no exams.


What are the prerequisites for taking this course?

An introductory background (high school or first year college level) in chemistry, physics, and calculus will help you be successful in this class.


What will this class prepare me for in the academic world?

Thermodynamics is required for many follow-on courses, like heat transfer, internal combustion engines, propulsion, and gas dynamics to name a few.


What will this class prepare me for in the real world?

Energy is one of the top challenges we face as a global society. Energy demands are deeply tied to the other major challenges of clean water, health, and poverty. Understanding how energy systems work is key to understanding how to meet all these needs around the world. Because energy demands are only increasing, this course also provides the foundation for many rewarding professional careers.


Will this class count for credit at my home institution?

That question can only be answered by your academic office at your home institution.