Carnegie Mellon University


The following are some words commonly used throughout the SUCCEED Lesson Plans.

Acid: An acid is a chemical substance whose aqueous solutions are characterized by a sour taste, the ability to turn blue litmus red, and the ability to react with bases and certain metals (like calcium) to form salts.  Acidity is measured in pH. Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline. Pure water has a pH very close to 7.

Anode: The negative side of a battery where electron buildup occurs.

Battery: A portable device that stores chemical energy and is able to convert that stored chemical energy into electricity.

Biomass: Plants and plant-derived material.

Biomass energy: Using biomass as a fuel or for power production.

Cap and trade: A method to reduce greenhouse gases where permits are issued to emit greenhouse gases (thus leading to a fixed amount of greenhouse gases emitted).  Permits can be purchased, awarded gradually to help traditionally high polluters become accustomed to the prices, or awarded for good behavior.

Carbon dioxide (CO2):  A greenhouse gas.  Sources can be natural (e.g., animals exhaling) or man-made (burning of fossil fuels).

Carbon dioxide capture: CO2 is converted to liquid and stored underground.

Carbon dioxide release: CO2 is sent into the atmosphere.

Carbon footprint: The amount of greenhouse gases caused by an individual, product, or event.

Carbon tax:  A method to reduce greenhouse gases where a tax is placed on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (thus leading to a fixed price on greenhouse gases).  Proposed taxes include a tax on amount of fossil fuel burned, the amount of greenhouse gases emitted directly, and the amount of greenhouse gases emitted before product acquisition.

Cathode: The positive side of a battery.

Coal power plant: Turbine is powered by steam from burning coal.

Coal-to-gas power plant: Coal is burned to form gas and heat, which powers the turbine.

Current: Flow of electric charge, or the flow of electrons. A common unit of measurement is an ampere, or amp (A).

Electrolyte: Separates the anode and cathode in a battery.


  1. Energy that the plants and animals originally obtained from the sun is stored in the form of carbon in natural gas.
  2. The capacity of something to do work; an amount.  Measured in watt-hours, kilowatt-hours, megawatt-hours. A typical American household used 940 kWh per month in 2011.

Energy conservation: Altering expectations/output to reduce electricity demand.

Energy efficiency: Employing more efficient technology that meets previous expectations/output and also reduces electricity demand.

Energy intensity: Energy intensity is a measure of the energy efficiency of a nation's economy. It is calculated as units of energy per unit of GDP.

Externality: A byproduct (either good or bad) that is not accounted for when doing the transaction or trade.  For example, a negative externality would be pollution, while a positive externality would be improved public education.

Geothermal energy: Energy derived from the heat of the Earth.

Greenhouse effect: Thermal radiation (heat) from the planet is absorbed by atmospheric greenhouse gases, and is re-radiated in all directions.

Greenhouse gas (GHG): A gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range (heat). The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.

Gross domestic product (GDP):  Gross domestic product (GDP) is the market value of all officially recognized final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time. GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of a country's standard of living.

Hydrocarbon: Any compound containing only hydrogen and carbon. Hydrocarbons are the chief components in petroleum and natural gas.

Hydroelectricity: Energy generated by forcing water through a turbine connected to a generator.

Internal combustion engine: The internal combustion engine is an engine in which the combustion of a fuel (normally a fossil fuel) occurs with an oxidizer (usually air) in a combustion chamber that is an integral part of the working fluid flow circuit. The expansion of the high-temperature and high-pressure gases produced by combustion apply direct force to some component of the engine. The force is applied typically to pistons, turbine blades, or a nozzle. This force moves the component over a distance, transforming chemical energy into useful mechanical energy.

Keeling curve: A graph which plots the ongoing change in concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere since 1958. It is based on continuous measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii begun under the supervision of Charles David Keeling.

Life cycle analysis (LCA): A method used to determine the environmental impact of a particular product.

Marcellus shale: A large black shale deposit extending under Ohio, West Virginia, northwestern Pennsylvania, and southern New York.

Natural gas power plant: Burning methane and other hydrocarbons to power a turbine.

Nuclear fission: The process of generating heat by splitting a nuclear in two.

Nuclear power plant: The splitting of uranium atoms to create heat, powering a turbine.

Ocean acidification: Ocean acidification is the name given to the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth's oceans, caused by the uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. About 30–40% of the carbon dioxide released by humans into the atmosphere dissolves into the oceans, rivers and lakes.

Outflows: What is left over, or what leaves, from a process or the creation of a product; anything that flows out from a particular process.

Photothermal: Using solar energy to heat a liquid and therefore store energy.

Photovoltaics: Cells that contain semiconductor materials to convert solar energy into electricity.

Power: Describes how much energy can be produced in a given time.  Also to supply a device with electricity; the product of voltage and current.  A common unit of measurement is a watt (W); also measured in watts, kilowatts, megawatts, etc.

Rebuttal: To refute prior evidence, and to oppose by offering contrary information

Resistance: A material’s opposition to electric current. A common unit of measurement is an ohm (Ω).

Solar energy: Energy from the suns' rays

Solar power plant: Using the sun’s rays to create electricity.  Two common technologies are photovoltaic (solar cells) and photothermal (heating a liquid).

Team debate: Composing arguments and opinions in a group, alternating who presents the information in the debate

Voltage: The difference in the electric charge of two places. A common unit of measurement is a volts (V).

Wave energy: Energy produced from ocean waves offshore.

Wind energy: Kinetic energy from the wind moves a turbine, generating mechanical energy that can be converted into electricity.

Wind power plant: Electricity is created by the movement of large blades powering a turbine.