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Model Inquiry [sorta] Laboratory Activities for Teaching about Thermodynamics of Energy Sources and Resources

Steven Semken (Arizona State University), Timothy Schroeder (Bennington College), Richard Kettler (University of Nebraska, Lincoln)

This is an in-progress compilation of simple, inexpensive, modular, inquiry-based laboratory experiments or demonstrations, from online or printed sources. These can potentially be used in a variety of settings and lessons for learning about some basic thermodynamic and other physical principles of energy sources and energy resources.

Measure and compare the energy densities of different fuels obtained by combustion and calorimetry.

Liquid fuels: Measure and compare the heats of combustion of liquid fuels using a metal-can calorimeter and spirit burners containing the different fuels. For example, see http://www.practicalchemistry.org/experiments/measuring-heat-energy-of-fuels,21,EX.html OR http://www.hi.com.au/chemtwotrb/Chtwo_58.doc (This link no longer works, but it refers to the following text: Heinemann Chemistry Two); there is also an example that can be watched on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpKKh7tU5Z0

Solid fuels: Measure and compare heats of combustion by burning small quantities of different solid fuels (e.g., wood, charcoal) in a holder beneath a metal-can calorimeter; see http://www.chymist.com/energy%20of%20a%20peanut.pdf for an example of an apparatus that can be constructed.


Explore the significance of heating water in total residential energy consumption.


Measure hydroelectric power output at varying head and apply the findings to real hydroelectric systems.


Measure wind power output at varying wind speed and apply the findings to real wind systems.

Inquiry Laboratory Activities for Thermodynamics of Energy Sources and Resources (Microsoft Word 46kB May19 09)

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