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Thermodynamics from car to kitchen

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Geoff Auty

Extract: A look at how everyday experience can help us to understand thermodynamics. The historical background to the laws of thermodynamics is explained using examples we can all observe in the world around us, focusing on motorised transport, refrigeration and solar heating. This is not to be considered as an academic article. The purpose is to improve understanding of thermodynamics rather than impart new knowledge, and for that reason the wording has been kept as simple as possible. This is intended to help non-specialists find a way in to a topic in which textbook presentations often seem obscure, and help specialist teachers offer their students examples to which they can readily relate before tackling the information examiners might demand.

Using ‘energy ideas’ in the teaching of biology

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Richard Needham

Extract: Would a change in terminology help avoid confusion or do we need to review the use of ‘energy’ in science teaching? ‘Energy ideas’ run through much of secondary school biology teaching. These ideas are not always consistent with each other or with the ideas used by other science disciplines. Would a change in terminology help avoid confusion or do we need to review the use of ‘energy’ in science teaching?

Blowing in the wind: a review of wind power technology

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Frank Harris

Extract: Is the revival of one of the oldest methods of harnessing energy viable or desirable? The use of wind as a replenishable energy resource has come back into favour in recent decades. It is much promoted as a viable, clean energy option that will help towards reducing CO2 emissions in the UK. This article examines the history of wind power and considers the development of wind turbines, together with their economic, environmental and technical implications.

The mighty atom? The development of nuclear power technology

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Frank Harris

Extract: What is the current state of probably the most controversial and most expensive power source to set up? The use of nuclear energy for the generation of electricity started in the 1950s and was viewed, at the time, as a source of virtually free power. Development flourished and some countries adopted the nuclear option as their principal source for producing electrical energy. However, a series of nuclear incidents and concern about the treatment of nuclear waste established such a perceived risk in the minds of the public that the British government has dithered indecisively over the role of nuclear power in the UK. This article examines the history of nuclear power, considers its progress and looks at the implications of future developments.

Osmotic power: a fresh look at an old experiment

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Pam Dugdale

Extract: Students are given the opportunity to try a lesser known method of providing an energy source. Electricity from osmotic pressure might seem a far-fetched idea but this article describes a prototype in Norway where the osmotic pressure generated between salt and fresh water drives a turbine. This idea was applied in a student investigation, where they were tasked with researching which alternative materials could be used for the semipermeable membrane and how advances in nanotechnology could provide a suitable material allowing full-scale power stations to be built. This link between nanomaterials and large-scale power production came as a surprise to the student group.

Biofuels: what are they and how can they improve practical work and discussions?

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Tristan MacLean

Extract: Deriving energy from new biological sources rather then fossilised remains. This article looks at the potential of bioenergy as a replacement for fossil fuels, the cutting-edge research being undertaken by scientists, and classroom resources available for teaching this topic. There is currently a large programme of scientific research aiming to develop advanced biofuels (replenishable liquid biofuels from non-food plants, algae and organic waste), along with an initiative to support teachers and engage the public. Advances in biofuel usage and technologies provide teachers with ample opportunity to discuss controversial issues and carry out practical work.

Exploring future energy choices with young people

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Ann MacGarry

Extract: Techniques to promote understanding of the choices that have to be made about energy use. The article outlines a couple of the most recent resources developed by the Centre for Alternative Technology for teaching about energy. The key elements are providing sound information on all the significant sources and inspiring pupils to make their own decisions about energy futures based on evidence. Our experience is that engaging pupils in this way counteracts the ‘doom and gloom’ that knowledge of climate change can lead to and leaves them feeling positive about the future. It certainly also draws some of them into careers in science and engineering.

Heat mining or replenishable geothermal energy? A project for advanced level physics students

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Pam Dugdale

Extract: Students design their own experiments and analyses of a proposed low enthalpy geothermal energy scheme. There is growing interest in the use of low enthalpy geothermal (LEG) energy schemes, whereby heated water is extracted from sandstone aquifers for civic heating projects. While prevalent in countries with volcanic activity, a recently proposed scheme for Manchester offered the perfect opportunity to engage students in the viability of this form of energy capture. This article details how second-year advanced-level physics students (A2, age 17–18) were given the freedom to design their own experiments and analyses of the proposed LEG scheme. The project provided opportunities for the students to improve their understanding of thermal physics and the ‘How science works’ sections of the A2 syllabus, while building their teamworking skills.

An alternative energy career project at The Warwick School, Redhill, Surrey

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Denise Balmer, with help from Allan Hopkins

Extract: An annual hands-on practical engineering day develops team skills and gives students a real taste of career possibilities. The article describes an innovative project for year 9 (age 13–14) students that has run since 2002 with the help of professional engineers and scientists and incorporates careers information and hands-on practical work. The programme was developed to highlight alternative energy as a subject and also to provide a hands-on practical day for the students prior to making their GCSE examination subject choices. The school’s science and technology departments were both involved initially, along with 16 local professional engineer and scientist volunteers. Since the initial project, the school’s media department has joined in and the day is seen by the students as an essential and exciting part of the year 9 programme.

The Earth Science Education Unit’s professional development workshop on ‘The carbon question – cycling, releasing, capturing’ for teachers of key stages 3 and 4

Issue: September 2014 354

Author: Chris King

Extract: The development of ESEU’s new carbon-based CPD workshop is described, to give a flavour of the experience it might provide to science teachers and trainees. The revised National Curriculum for Science for key stages 3 and 4 (ages 11–16) in England provides the opportunity to develop a new coherent approach to teaching about the carbon cycle, the use of carbon as a fuel and the resulting issues. The Earth Science Education Unit (ESEU) intends to develop a new workshop to support the teaching of this topic. The format will mirror ESEU’s successful methodology whereby teachers rehearse activities and demonstrations in a workshop and then receive additional materials to support classroom activity. Like all other ESEU workshops, ‘The carbon question – cycling, releasing, capturing’ workshop will be available free to science departments and teacher training institutions.

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