Archived Versions

8.21 The Physics of Energy

As taught in: Fall 2009

An energy flow diagram.

An energy flow diagram representing the 2004 U.S. energy flow. (Image courtesy of Energy Information Administration.)




Prof. Robert Jaffe

Prof. Washington Taylor

Course Features

Course Description

This course is designed to give you the scientific understanding you need to answer questions like:

  • How much energy can we really get from wind?
  • How does a solar photovoltaic work?
  • What is an OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Converter) and how does it work?
  • What is the physics behind global warming?
  • What makes engines efficient?
  • How does a nuclear reactor work, and what are the realistic hazards?

The course is designed for MIT sophomores, juniors, and seniors who want to understand the fundamental laws and physical processes that govern the sources, extraction, transmission, storage, degradation, and end uses of energy.