Energy is the nutrition for all living and inanimate systems. What is energy and how do we channel it to create desirable outcomes? The same electric current passing through a heating element, a light bulb, a tuned microwave circuit, a laser etc. creates different outcomes. The differences lie in the disorder in the radiation emitted. The course will start with a brief description of basic physics and how nature prefers disorder. Nature's preference for disorder also leads to our inability to predict future in large interacting systems. We will examine how incoherent or disordered (highly inefficient) conversion of energy can be altered to create a coherent outcome where past, present and future are linked. Coherence is useful for applications ranging from communications (cell phones, radio transmission, optical communications), diagnostics (detection of gases through resonance, tumors, non-chemical detection of molecules etc.), information storage and even surgeries and machining. Successful businesses also strive to create coherence in their efforts.
To understand how coherence is created we will discuss the general universal ideas of cavity (a structure that restricts choices and selects a particular choice above others), gain or negative resistance (where a fluctuation grows rather than decays) and feedback (where past, present and future are linked to create temporal and spatial order).
We will address how coherence is created in important engineering applications such as microwave emitters, lasers, crystal growth systems and self-assembly of nanostructures. An important goal of the course will be to enable students to think about underlying common themes in seemingly diverse phenomena (an essential ingredient for creativity).
The course will involve experiments using photovoltaic panels with and without solar collectors to study the electricity that can be obtained from the sun. This (renewable) energy will be stored in a battery and used to light high efficiency LED based lamps. Student will examine key issues and challenges in renewable energy through this experiment. We will also do experiments to study order and disorder; use of simulation tools to examine energy generation and conversion. Technical writing and presentation will also be part of the course.
Who should take this course?
This course is designed for students interested in electrical engineering. However, students interested in other applied disciplines who want to get a big picture concept of energy and how order or predictability is created from disorder will find this course very instructional. We will discuss problems not only of direct relevance to electrical engineers but also problems of interest to chemical engineers, industrial engineers, bio-engineers, etc. ,and indeed even to business majors.