Renewable Energy

Kevin Braun (Beloit College) and George Lisensky (Beloit College)

This workshop was held June 19-24, 2016, and was previously offered in 2010, 2012, and 2014.

Interest in environmental responsibility and renewable energy provides a context as to why chemistry is integral to solving fundamental problems.  The Renewable Energy workshop is designed for educators interested in integrating chemical concepts derived from renewable and sustainable energy into the general chemistry curriculum and laboratory.  Topics ranging from fuel combustion, solar cells, battery technology, and biofuels will be used to introduce concepts in organic chemistry, thermodynamics, biochemistry, and inorganic chemistry.  

The five-day workshop is held on the campus of Beloit College in a LEED certified (platinum) science center and includes a large number of hands-on activities and laboratory experiments that mostly do not require specialized equipment.  Participants receive lab directions and resources for class use.

2016 participant paragraphs

Day 1: Solid, liquid, gas – energy density and entropy
Topics: Enthalpy, entropy, organic chemistry, combustion, metabolism
Activities: Fuel calorimetry of liquid fuels; bond enthalpy of food and fuels; environmental modeling in the lab

Day 2: Biofuels
Topics: Functional groups, food vs fuel, biofuel options
Activities: Biodiesel synthesis from used vegetable oil and analysis by solubility, GC, NMR, FTIR and GC/MS; ZnO preparation

Day 3: Solar cells, batteries, energy harvesting
Topics: Bands, pn junctions, redox, thermoelectric and piezoelectric devices
Activities: Preparation of a Gratzel solar cell; metal activity series discovery laboratory; ZnO photoelectrochemistry

Day 4: Energy Conservation and Field trip to large scale renewable energy facility
Activities: Low-e glass; light sources, periodic properties and light emitting diodes

Day 5: Fuel cells and summary
Activities: Fuel cell fabrication, strategies for implementing alternative energies within your curriculum

Housing and Travel Information for the Workshop

Sunday, June 19-Friday, June 24, 2016
Beloit College, Beloit, WI 53511


The workshop schedule runs from dinner at 6:00 pm on Sunday, June 19, through lunch on Friday, June 24, 2016.

Travel by air

The Chicago O'Hare airport (ORD) is 85 miles from Beloit. There is almost hourly airport bus service available for $28 each way. See for a schedule. If you give us your travel plans we will meet the Van Galder bus in South Beloit, Illinois and take you to campus. Milwaukee (70 miles) and Madison (50 miles) airports are also nearby but no public transportation is available from those locations.

Travel by car

Beloit is located at the border between Wisconsin and Illinois at the intersection of Interstate 90 and Interstate 43.
Driving Directions


We will be staying in one of the campus residence halls. Each person will have their own room, with bathrooms/showers on the same floor. Rooms are air conditioned. Bedding, towels and washcloths are supplied. Not all residence halls have an elevator so if you need a handicap accessible room please let us know.

Rooms will be available for check-in 2:00-6:00 on Sunday, June 19. If you will be arriving outside of these times please contact us to arrange check-in.


Dinners will be in various locations, starting on Sunday, June 19. We will be eating breakfast and lunch in Chapin Dining Hall beginning with breakfast on Monday, June 20 and ending with lunch on Friday, June 24. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks will also be provided.


All of the sessions associated with the workshop will be very informal and you should dress accordingly. We will frequently be in the lab so dress appropriately for experimental work. Safety glasses are required in the laboratory sessions; we will have some available but you may wish to bring your own.


Presentations, experiments and discussions will be held on the fourth floor of our new Science Center. Elevator access is available at the south west corner of the building.