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CHY1201 : Elements of Physical Chemistry

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Ben Horrocks
  • Lecturer: Dr Fabio Cucinotta, Dr Nick Walker
  • Practical Supervisor: Dr Cristina Navarro Reguero
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


To provide an essential understanding of basic thermodynamic principles, chemical kinetics, spectroscopy and quantum theory. In conjunction with the stage 1 physical chemistry laboratory class, an introduction to some experimental techniques which can be employed in physical chemistry is provided.

Outline Of Syllabus

Dr BR Horrocks

1 Properties of gases, perfect and imperfect gases
2-3 Enthalpy and the first law
4 Entropy
5-8 Gibbs energy and the second law. Phase changes and chemical equilibria. Third law.
9 Electrochemical cells
10 Thermodynamics of mixtures

Dr F Cucinotta

1 Empirical chemical kinetics: relationship with equilibrium
2 Rate laws: first-order, second-order, and pseudo first-order reactions
3 Experimental techniques
4 Determination of the rate law I: isolation method
5 Determination of the rate law II: integrated rate laws, half lives
6 Temperature dependence: Arrhenius law
7 Collision theory and activated complexes
8 Accounting for the rate laws: mechanisms and steady-state approximation
9 Example mechanisms
10 Revision seminar I
11 Revision seminar II

Dr N Walker

1 General introduction to spectroscopy
2-4 Electronic spectroscopy
5-7 Vibrational and rotational spectroscopy
8 Spectroscopy and Temperature
9-11 Magnetic resonance spectroscopies

Laboratory Course
Course organiser: Dr C Navarro-Reguero

1 Electrochemical cells: Delta-G of a reaction and Nernst equation
2 Measurement of pH and pKa by titration
3 Measurement of solubility using conductance
4 Kinetics using spectrophotometry
5 Infrared spectroscopy - interpretation
6 Ultraviolet/visible spectroscopy
7 Calorimetry: heats of reaction and dissolution
8 Reaction kinetics using conductance
9 Ideal gas law and absolute zero
10 Investigation of the kinetics of the BZ reaction
11 Infrared spectroscopy – physical basis
12 UV/VIS and fluorescence spectroscopy - physical basis
13 Black Body Distribution

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture331:0033:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion92:0018:00Writing practical reports
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion330:5027:30Revision for end of semester examination
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion13:003:00End of semester examination
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical56:0030:002 x 3h practical sessions take place over 5 weeks
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops211:0021:00Calculation Classes
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery101:0010:001 x 1h drop-in sessions with lecturer for 10 weeks
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study157:3057:30N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Knowledge and understanding are acquired through lectures. The calculation classes will increase the ability of students to solve quantitative problems and carry out calculations in physical chemistry. Practicals are designed to reinforce the taught material and practice written, experimental, computer and problem solving skills. The drop in sessions allow discussion between module staff and students.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1802A60N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report2M40composed of several individual laboratory reports as specified in the practical course handbook
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The examination and assessment are designed to test knowledge, numerical and problem solving skills.

The coursework provides continual practice in calculation.

Practical reports assess written, experimental, computer and problem solving skills.

Students are required to obtain at least 35% in the examination component in order for the laboratory mark to be included in the final module mark.

Students who score

Reading Lists