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PA - C7 - PHY579 : Physics of Direct Energy Conversion and Storage

Domaine > Physique.


PHY579- Direct Energy Conversion and Storage

A - Summary

Production and energy management systems are presently undergoing profound changes. While many options are still under discussion, all share a few constraints (and opportunities?), limits, set by the laws of nature and in particular those of physics.

The conversion, transport and storage of energy are the three main processes at work within the energy systems. Note that the conversion of energy is also a determining element to the end use of energy services, and thus a key factor for energy efficiency. In most traditional systems, non-direct thermal/ mechanical/ electrical conversion is obtained through a thermodynamic cycle between a hot and a cold source. Direct conversion systems are based on the gradient of characteristic intensive magnitude (pressure, temperature, mechanical potential, chemical potential, …) or on the flow of an extensive quantity (heat, matter, radiation, ...) which is converted into electrical potential gradient that is easily convertible into other useful forms of energy. The course will focus on systems in which the coupling between gradients does not involve mobile mechanical part. This is relevant for the energy transition, where large quantities of energy have to be converted and stored efficiently, as well as for the information society (Internet of Things) where quantities of micro-sources have to be deployed.

The educational objective of the course is to make the link between fundamental, very general, physical constraints and practical applications in the energy sector. In its form, it will include a part course, to present the fundamental concepts, and a part of homework through (i) documents to be analyzed in group and (ii) personal work.

In the first part of this course, we will present general principles implemented within devices for direct conversion of energy, or rather power conversion from non-equilibrium thermodynamics. In a second part, we will study the physical principles governing the operation of different converters: thermoelectric, photovoltaic, thermionic, electrochemical,...

Physical factors limiting the efficiency of these systems will be studied in detail. With the development of nanosciences, some conventional approaches had to be re-examined, and therefore the way quantum behavior allowed to revisit some of the approaches of conversion will be also introduced.

 Participants will explore one of these aspects through a personal work (individually or in pairs) on one or more scientific articles. This will be an opportunity for the student either to explore some physical limitations in conversion and storage, or look more in detail of specific conversion or storage systems. This work will be guided, and will include a short presentation to all students, and a longer discussion for the final examination.

The final exam will consist in an oral exam with question on the personnal work done on the selected topic.

B - Planning




EA 1

Introduction, thermodynamics bases

Presentation of topics


EA 2

Non EquilibriumThermodynamics: fluxes, forces, coupled fluxes

Articles : Endoreversibles Systems


EA 3

Production of entropy, Dissipation, minima & maxima 

Articles : Constructal approach


EA 4

Thermodynamics of light,

thermal &  electromagnetic conversion

Articles : Planck’s Law and generalisations, conversion of  photons


EA 5


Article : classical & mesoscopic approaches



EA 6


Guided work on personnal topics


EA 7

Presentation (mid-term) of personnal work

Presentation (mid-term) of personnal work


EA 8

Electrochemistry : conversion & storage

Articles : chemical systems for direct conversion, osmosis, batteries


EA 9

Magnetohydrodynamics, Thermoionic and electrokinetic conversions

Article: limits to energy storage






C - Useful reading

- Physique de la conversion d’énergie
, Jean-Marcel Rax - EDP Sciences/CNRS Editions

- Physique statistique hors d’équilibre, Noëlle Pottier - EDP Sciences/CNRS Editions

- Thermodynamics of Solar Energy Conversion, Alexis De Vos - Wiley-VCH

- Sustainable Energy - without the hot air, David JC Mackay - http://www.withouthotair.com/

- Thermodynamics and an introduction to thermostatistics, H. Callen -  John Wiley & Sons

Course language : English
Credits ECTS : 4

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Pour les étudiants du diplôme Diplôme d'ingénieur de l'Ecole polytechnique

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