Politecnico di Torino
Politecnico di Torino
Politecnico di Torino
Academic Year 2015/16
Energy, progress and sustainability
1st degree and Bachelor-level of the Bologna process in Energy Engineering - Torino
1st degree and Bachelor-level of the Bologna process in Biomedical Engineering - Torino
1st degree and Bachelor-level of the Bologna process in Mechanical Engineering - Mondovi'
Teacher Status SSD Les Ex Lab Tut Years teaching
Leone Pierluigi   O2 ING-IND/10 39 21 0 0 8
SSD CFU Activities Area context
ING-IND/10 6 D - A scelta dello studente A scelta dello studente
Subject fundamentals
Everything that happens in the universe can be related to energy flows. Huge and continuous amounts of energy invested and shaped our planet since its formation, nearly five billion years ago, changing it up to the condition we know today. The complex processes of transformation brought about conditions favorable to the formation of biological life that evolved into an enormous variety of species. A unique case in the universe, as we know today. Only recently, the human species appeared in one of the branches of the life evolution and it was the only one that gained the full development of consciousness and intelligence, foundations of the birth and of the progress of civilization.
Since men became sentient beings, they developed many skills including the ability to generate and control energy flows higher than those strictly necessary to sustain their biological life. It was a key passage for the development of human civilization, and today it is possible to study the history of humankind by pointing out the increasing amount of energy that it was able to control.
Nowadays, it is increasing the number of people who believe that the responsibility of the serious phenomena conventionally called "energy crisis", is dependent on the use of large amounts of uncontrolled energy. The countless and ever clearly visible scientific, historical and geopolitical evidence suggests that the growing use of energy, inevitably inherent in the development of technological and industrial civilization, can damage the functionality of the ecological niche that guarantees the existence of living beings, and with them that of the human species. This debate has expanded from the limited area of specialists to all players in civil societies, often with opposing opinions.
Engineers, scientists, policy-makers, more than other citizens, have duty to analyze this problem. In fact, since they are responsible for the design, construction and management of technological facilities, they must also understand whether the negative consequences that are attributed to these works are real and, if so, take action to avoid or to mitigate them.
For these reasons, mostly ethical, it is desirable to complete the traditional training of future scientists and engineers with the knowledge of the consequences that could result from the improper or uncontrolled use of technology and measures to mitigate or avoid at all them. With this course, we intend to contribute in this direction.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course, the student will:
1.Consolidate the knowledge that energy flows within and between material bodies are the cause and effect of all events observed in nature, both in inanimate bodies that in living beings.
2.Learn the structure and the consequences of all those events - environmental, climatic, economic and social – of anthropic nature that are called as ‘energy crisis’.
3.Learn the links between the historical development and scientific, technological and social progress of human civilizations with the actual ability of men to gather and use the energy resources on the Earth.
4.Realize how the energy utilization has a strong impact on the well-being of all human communities and the progress of their civilization, and that there is an increasing burden of moral responsibility for scientists and engineers who, through their work, contribute to change the natural world.
5. Acquire the cultural tools that recognize energy as the link between the multiplicity of phenomena which are studied in the basic disciplines of engineering and architecture degrees (physics, chemistry, thermodynamics), thus enabling a holistic and unified learning approach.
Prerequisites / Assumed knowledge
The student should have attended basic courses in physics, chemistry and thermodynamics in order to understand the course contents and to participate in planned activities with the maximum profit.
TEnergy from the physical and metaphysical standpoint (12h). A critical examination of the cause-effect relationship between the flows and the distribution of energy and natural phenomena. A brief recall of fundamentals of physics and thermodynamics with particular care to the forms of energy and the ways to measure it.
The essential elements of the current debate about the "energy crisis" and on the statement that this is also a crisis of civilization. Importance and interdependence of critical factors: availability of energy resources, climate and environmental issues, politics and international geopolitics, economic and financial elements, social relations and unequal conditions of life in the planet.
Planet energetics (6h). Interaction of the Earth with solar radiation. The effects on atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere. Gravitational phenomena and tides. Geothermal and seismic effects.
Energetics of biological organisms (4.5h). Use of energy for life processes of plants and animals. Trophic chains. Vulnerability of conditions of existence of life in our planet.
History of pre-industrial human civilization (4.5h) based on the ways through which men learned to use increasing amounts of energy to achieve well-being. Energy uses in agriculture, development of prime movers, construction of buildings and infrastructure and military uses.
Energy in the 20th and 21th century (3h). Reserves and Resources. Fossil sources and renewable energy (sun, water, biomass, wind, waves and tides). Intermediate sources and energy carriers (electricity, liquid and gaseous fossil fuels, hydrogen). End uses (residential, industry, transport, military applications).
Technology issues (15h). Building, transportation, access to electricity, environmental protection, industry and agriculture. Technology perspectives. Thermal and electrical prime movers. Distribution of fuel and electricity. Housing and residential services: the situation in developed countries and in developing countries. Surface, water and air transportation. Electricity generation and distribution (with fossil and renewable sources), intelligent networks (Smart Grids).
Possible scenarios and opportunities in the twenty-first century (12h). Examination of the concepts of progress and sustainability. The energy ties with the quality of life, economy, development, energy poverty and the quality of the environment in relation to the existence of biological life. Ecology and bio-economy. The ecological footprint. Climate policy and energy transitions. The importance of energy efficiency. The conflict between savings and lifestyles. The question of de-growth.
Myths and realities of the energy issue (3h).
Delivery modes
The course will include lectures and practices, the latter based on examples explained during lectures and then developed individually by students in written form.
From the fourth week of the course, each student must prepare a report with a maximum of 20 folders. Teachers will help students to choose the topic of their report. The evaluation of the document will contribute to the final mark and it will be based into two steps. First, each student will be involved in a peer-review process to evaluate the report of other collegues; therefore, teachers will assign the final evaluation.
Some lessons, one to four at most, could be replaced by monographic seminars conducted by external specialists.
Texts, readings, handouts and other learning resources
Students can prepare for the exam on the topics covered in the course following the lectures, supplemented by slides projected during the lessons, studying on the two books:
• Calì M. et al., Guida all’energia nella natura e nelle civiltà umane, Ed. Esculapio, 2014, Bologna.
• Smil V., Energy in Nature and Society: General Energetics of Complex Systems, MIT Press, 2008, Boston.
During the course, teachers will distribute notes and documents with most significant data and information, and will suggest the reading of articles and books selected to complement the study.
Assessment and grading criteria
The final examination consists of:
• The evaluation of the individual report to be delivered two weeks in advance before the end of the course. Evaluation up to 3 points.
• A multiple-choice written exam consisting of a number of questions on the topics covered in the course. The student must answer by choosing between three options of which only one is correct. Evaluation up to 24 points.
• An oral examination, optional at the discretion of the student, which can be sustained only by those students who cumulated 18 points in the two previous evaluations.

Programma definitivo per l'A.A.2015/16

© Politecnico di Torino
Corso Duca degli Abruzzi, 24 - 10129 Torino, ITALY
WCAG 2.0 (Level AA)