What you will study
Crude oil is currently our most important global source of energy. It is vital in the manufacture of many modern materials. But the world’s supply of oil is finite, its price is unstable and our reliance on oil has damaging environmental consequences. Can we sustainably fuel our transport needs with biofuels, electricity or hydrogen? Can we replace the plastics we derive from crude oil with ones made by microorganisms or plants?
You will explore the properties of crude oil that make it so useful and then use this knowledge to examine some potential sustainable alternatives. You’ll study the development of biofuels; battery electric vehicles; hydrogen as fuel; and the production of biologically derived materials to replace plastics. Throughout the course you’ll focus on assessing the environmental impacts of these potential alternatives to oil products.
The course will demonstrate that while developing these alternatives requires the application of a wide range of different scientific disciplines, chemistry plays a central role in our efforts to replace oil.
By the end of this course you will have developed a range of study skills associated with retrieving and interpreting information and data from a variety of sources, including in the form of tables, charts and graphs, as well as from articles, audio and video material. You will also have engaged with some of the fundamental concepts needed to study chemistry.
This course has been partly funded by the Wolfson Foundation in collaboration with The Royal Society of Chemistry.
By the end of this course you should be able to:
Demonstrate general knowledge and understanding of some of the basic facts, concepts, principles and language relating to the science and social issues appropriate to the development of alternatives to oil products. In particular, you should be able to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of:
- the chemistry of oil products and their renewable alternatives
- some of the key scientific concepts used in the development of alternative energy sources and biomaterials
- some of the key social and environmental factors influencing decision-makers in relation to the development of renewable alternatives to oil products.
The course features the distinctive strengths of The Open University (OU) from its years of expertise in distance learning:
- The convenience of accessing its clearly presented and sequenced materials, activities and support whenever suits you and wherever you have access to the protected course website – if you prefer, you can print key materials to work on them offline.
- The support of an expert learning adviser who can clarify study materials, answer questions and help you relate the course to your specific needs.
- An online interactive quiz that you can attempt as many times as you wish to help you test your own learning.
- A statement of participation from the OU which you can use to demonstrate your engagement with the course. (N.B. The course does not carry academic credit points.)
Some of the pages within the course contain links to external sites. Accessing these sites is part of the allocated study time for the course. You may also wish to undertake additional background study or reading if some of the concepts introduced are completely unfamiliar to you.
Expert, confidential learner support is available when you need it from a learning adviser, who will respond to you directly. Other support is available via the course forum, dedicated website and computing helpdesk.
This course will require around 100 hours to complete.