Phelma Formation 2022

Transition engineering. - 5PMPGTR2

  • Number of hours

    • Lectures 12.0
    • Projects 0
    • Tutorials 12.0
    • Internship 0
    • Laboratory works 0


    ECTS 2.0


The aim is to give to student engineers the orders of magnitude and the tools to address the field of Transition, whether it is ecological, energetic or societal. This course is mainly scientific (in the sense of engineering science) but will present social science tools to support its demonstrations. Common cognitive bias that are an obstacle to Transition will also be studied. Geopolitic will be abundantly addressed in the lectures.

Contact Raphael BOICHOT


The course is divided as follows:

*Chapter I: definitions, tools and issues

The goal of this chapter is to understand the orders of magnitude of energy, the basic concepts of bibliographic research, technical thermodynamics, energy markets, energy costs and current macroeconomic theories. The concept of EROI will be discussed and then taken up again in the following chapters. Finally, the concepts related to the environment (LCA, CO2 equivalent, quantification of the various impacts, etc.) will be introduced as a support for the following chapters.

*Chapter II: The mega-issues

Here we will successively address :

  • The problem of the exponential growth of energy consumption and the different factors contributing to it. We will analyze the profile of energy consumption around the world and the particular case of France.
  • The factors explaining the growth or the decrease of the population through the history of humanity. We will see the parameters explaining the sudden growth of the human population on earth in recent history, the effects of different factors on the recent slowdown of this growth as well as the projections and probable consequences of the population increase.
  • The problem of exponential resource consumption. Here we will discuss the concepts of resource finitude and the coupling between resource criticality and EROI. Renewable, energy and mineral resources will be addressed as a linked whole. The major issues of critical materials substitution will be outlined here. The geopolitical aspects of access to resources will be the key point of this chapter.
  • The problem of the exponential growth of the concentration of greenhouse gases. Based on the IPCC reports and the scientific literature, we will analyze the probable effects of global warming.This chapter does not aim to dramatize the situation but to expose in a scientific way, factually, what is known or not about global warming. This chapter does not aim to dramatize the situation but to expose in a scientific way, factually, what is known or not about global warming. The case of the future global climate, then European, will be addressed.

*Chapter III: Current solutions

This chapter will approach a synthesis of the current knowledge on the storage of energy, its production by means of processes not directly using fossil resources (Energies known as "renewable") and the probable advantages and disadvantages of the new energy vectors which will be the biomass, the hydrogen and the electron. The chapter will start with storage, then study the vectors, and finally make an assessment of non-carbon energies by major sectors (solar thermal, photovoltaic and geothermal, wind and hydroelectric, nuclear). These energies will be approached through their EROI, their energy density, their resource consumption, their discounted cost and finally their LCA). This chapter will be technical and will call upon the essential prerequisites of the course (heat transfer, electrochemistry, technical thermodynamics, basics of physics and material science).

*Chapter IV: Transition for the engineer

This chapter will first discuss why it is necessary to change perspective in solving the problem of the non-sustainability of human development, why simplistic solutions are worse than doing nothing. Here we will discuss some of the huge mistakes that have been made in the emotional treatment of the Transition problem. Finally, several rational methodologies to elaborate transition projects will be exposed (InTIME method, SACS method, crash-test method). A scientific focus on degrowth, its principles and motivations will be proposed. The concept of "green growth" will be discussed with the students on a bibliographic basis. We will try to draw a probable future for humanity based on current facts and knowledge and to see how the engineering profession will be key in the transition towards this future.

The course will be complemented by discussions with the students. They will be invited to submit their own vision of the Transition and to debate it, the subject of the Transition being above all a societal project. This course will be approached without political blinkers because the transition is not a political project, it is THE political project.

  • Heat transfers
  • Basics of electrochemistry
  • Major classes of materials
  • Technical thermodynamics


DS - 2h all documents allowed

Final exam with documents (2 hours) on a case study.

Additional Information

Course list
Curriculum->Engineering degree->Semester 9
Curriculum->Apprentissage MEP->Semester 9
Curriculum->Master->Semester 9


S. Krumdieck : Transition Engineering - Building a sustainable future.
S. Michaux : Assessment of the Extra Capacity Required of Alternative Energy Electrical Power Systems to Completely Replace Fossil Fuels.
D. Meadows : The limits to growth.
T. Parrique : The political economy of Degrowth.
P. Bihouix : Quel futur pour les métaux ?

+ Reports from the ADEME, the IPCC, the IEA, the Shift Project and a hundred references of scientific articles transmitted to the students.