Get an introduction to energy and explore how humans and other living things obtain and use their biological energy sources.
Discover applications of biological energy, from human energy to photosynthesis
On this course, you’ll learn what energy actually is and how living things acquire and convert it.
You’ll find out how biological energy is stored and released in fossil fuels and what advances in agriculture mean for feeding the world’s growing population.
As you explore biological energy in industry, you’ll consider the ways science can help us to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels as well as ways we might use and learn from plants to provide energy in the future.
You’ll also discover the concept of ‘energy overload’ and how it is threatening our bodies’ energy balance today.
What topics will you cover?
- Introduction to energy: How living things use energy; A brief history of thermodynamics; Enthalpy, entropy and free energy.
- Human energy: Humans as chemotrophs; Chemical energy from food; Mitochondria; ion gradients and ATP.
- Photosynthesis: Green plants and autotrophic bacteria; Solar energy to food; Oxygenation and evolution.
- Industrial energy: Fossil fuels; Biomass; Artificial photosynthesis.
When would you like to start?
Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts.
- Available now
What will you achieve?
By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to:
- Describe what energy is and how concepts of energy, enthalpy and entropy were developed.
- Summarise how humans obtain, convert and store energy.
- Describe oxygenic photosynthesis and its ecological significance.
- Compare biologically-derived energy sources, both renewable and non-renewable.
Who is the course for?
This course is designed for young learners who have studied at least GCSE science (chemistry, biology, or physics) and are interested in pursuing the connections between these subjects.
It will be of particular interest to those looking to study the life sciences at the university level.
The course is also suitable for those who are simply interested in how living things store and use energy.
Who will you learn with?
I teach and research biological chemistry in the Department of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London. Before that, I taught in Denver, Colorado, and studied at Oxford and Yale.
I am a Postgraduate Research Student in Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics at Royal Holloway, University of London, where I completed my Bachelor's in Biochemistry.
Who developed the course?
Royal Holloway, University of London
Queen Victoria presided over the grand opening of Royal Holloway in 1886. Since then the College has continued to grow in size and status to become one of the top research-led institutions in the UK.
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