MEng Chemical Engineering with Energy and Environment

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Fundamentals of Thermodynamics

Course unit fact file
Unit code CHEN10081
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


Thermodynamics was born in the 19th century to improve the efficiency of engines and thus increase the amount of useful work obtained from a given source of energy (combustion of coal at those times). The name itself denotes power developed from heat (energy). The theoretical framework of Thermodynamics is based on some fundamental postulates, or laws, that were originally developed for steam engines, but have a general validity. The legitimacy of these laws cannot be proved mathematically, but instead lies in the absence of contrasting experimental evidence. The mathematical framework and associated physics built on these fundamental postulates are applied to many practical problems of Chemical Engineering and constitute main ingredient of the present course.


The following is the list of the main topics covered in this unit:


  • Introduction to thermodynamic systems and states of matter.
  • The First Law of Thermodynamics. Heat, work, and internal energy.
  • Enthalpy and heat capacities.
  • Reversible and irreversible processes.
  • PVT behaviour of pure substances. Phase diagrams.
  • Heat associated to physical transformations. Steam tables.
  • Energy and mass balance for open systems.
  • Application of energy and mass balance to engineering devices: turbines, compressors, throttling valves, nozzles, mixing chambers, heat exchangers.
  • The Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Kelvin-Planck and Clausius statements.
  • Heat engines and thermal efficiency.
  • The Carnot cycle and principles.
  • Entropy and the increase of entropy principle.
  • Entropy balance for closed and open systems.
  • Properties of T-s, P-h and h-s diagrams.
  • Isentropic efficiency of engineering devices.
  • Compression and expansion. Reciprocating and centrifugal compression. Adiabatic and polytropic systems. Multistage compression.
  • Cascade refrigeration.
  • Gas turbines: the Brayton cycle.
  • The Rankine cycle and the reheat Rankine cycle.



This unit aims to connect the key principles and laws of classical thermodynamics to processes and chemical engineering devices involving heat and work transfer.

It will give students a basic understanding of the postulates of classical Thermodynamics and how to apply them to open and closed systems.


Learning outcomes

ILO 1:Define a thermodynamic system in terms of physico-chemical properties and boundary conditions.

ILO 2:Develop a fundamental understanding of internal energy, heat, work, enthalpy and entropy.

ILO 3: Apply mass and energy conservation principles to closed and open systems.

ILO 4:Interpret phase diagrams and thermodynamic tables of pure substances and apply them to design chemical engineering devices.

ILO 5:Perform basic calculations to estimate the heat associated to phase transformations.

ILO 6:Apply energy and entropy balances to analyse the performance of heat engines and refrigerators.

ILO 7:Calculate the efficiency of thermodynamic cycles.

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures provide fundamental aspects supporting the critical learning of the module and will be delivered as pre-recorded asynchronous short videos via our virtual learning environment.

Synchronous sessions will support the lecture material with Q&A and problem-solving sessions where you can apply the new concepts. Surgery hours are also available for drop-in support.

Feedback on problems and examples, feedback on coursework and exams, and model answers will also be provided through the virtual learning environment. A discussion board provides an opportunity to discuss topics related to the material presented in the module.

Students are expected to expand the concepts presented in the session and online by additional reading (suggested in the Online Reading List) in order to consolidate their learning process and further stimulate their interest to the module.

Study budget:

  • Core Learning Material (e.g. recorded lectures, problem solving sessions): 24 hours
  • Self-Guided Work (e.g. continuous assessment, extra problems, reading)     : 44 hours
  • Exam Style Assessment Revision and Preparation: 32 hours

Assessment methods

Assessment Types

Total Weighting

Continuous assessment


Exam style assessments


Please note that the exam style assessments weighting may be split over midterm and end of semester exams. 

Feedback methods

For each assessment

Recommended reading

Reading lists are accessible through the Blackboard system linked to the library catalogue.

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Antonios Anastasiou Unit coordinator
Andrew Masters Unit coordinator

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