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CHY8423 : Chemistry Far From Equilibrium

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Toni Carruthers
  • Lecturer: Dr Mike Probert, Professor Ulrich Stimming, Dr Tom Penfold
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


Contemporary physical chemistry makes important contributions to all areas of science. This module draws on topics around a theme of chemistry far from equilibrium, influenced by current research within SNES (Chemistry). We will demonstrate and contextualise the relevance of physical chemistry towards climate change, the environment, healthcare, stars and interstellar space, and in furthering our understanding of chemical structure and processes.

This module, which sets out to avoid mathematics, will highlight recent advances in four separate topics that each connect with important contemporary questions about chemical structure and dynamics; (A) Aerosols, (B) Astrochemistry, (C) Advanced Crystallography and (D) Time-Resolved Spectroscopy. Attention is given to modern aspects of the field and to the applications of research in these topics. Emphasis will be given to practical techniques without recourse to detailed mathematical approaches.

Aerosols (Section A) play a significant role in the atmosphere, environment, combustion science and human health. This short course will discuss chemical and physical aerosol properties and key processes that affect their dynamics, kinetics and equilibrium state.

Astrochemistry (Section B) will explore the chemistry of the interstellar medium, interstellar clouds and circumstellar shells. The fundamental role of chemistry in the evolution of the universe will be discussed. The course examines both the physical chemistry that shapes the chemistry of the universe and the observational methods that allow its observation.
Advanced Crystallography (Section C) will discuss processes of crystal growth and the different methods used to obtain crystalline materials. This leads naturally to an advanced knowledge of the various analytical methods available to characterise crystalline materials. Attention will then be given to understanding some important relationships between the crystal structure of a solid and its physical or chemical properties. Examples of advanced materials will be used where the relationship between structure and function becomes evident.

Time-resolved Spectroscopy (Section D) will describe the experimental methods available for probing ultra-fast (femtosecond) chemical reactions and the motivations of these experiments. It will describe how researchers construct “molecular movies” that precisely follow the re-arrangement of molecular structures during chemical change. Such changes are understood and interpreted through quantum mechanics.

Outline Of Syllabus

Dr AE Carruthers
Introduction to aerosols; Aerosol measurements; the equilibrium state of aerosol; the kinetics of aerosol; the optical properties of aerosols.

Dr NR Walker
The chemistry of the early universe; observational techniques; laboratory experiments; detection and characterisation of interstellar and circumstellar molecules; molecular dynamics in the interstellar medium; cosmic dust and interstellar chemistry

Advanced Crystallography
Dr MR Probert
Review of analytical and synthetic methods in solid state sciences; the crystalline state; crystal engineering; powder diffraction and small angle X-ray scattering; in situ microscopy of crystalline matter.

Time-resolved Spectroscopy
Dr TJ Penfold
Introduction to ultrafast time-resolved spectroscopy for probing fundamental chemical dynamics; the pump-probe technique, time-resolved vibrational spectroscopy, time-resolved X-ray techniques, including X-ray free electron lasers and new advances in attosecond spectroscopy for probing electron dynamics.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion140:0040:00Background reading
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion115:0015:00In-course assignment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture241:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion121:0021:00Researching the topics and preparation for the assignment and presentation
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Students acquire knowledge and understanding through lectures and by the way of research articles available on the web. Handouts will provide additional knowledge. Students will undertake organised trips to research labs to see the various techniques in operation and will have opportunity to talk to specialists about these experimental protocols. Research articles will be discussed both formally and informally and used to illustrate the formal lectures. Students will be directed to key websites where additional information can be found in a more user-friendly manner than advanced textbooks.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation151A50N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M50Assignment with a maximum of 1000 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The student will complete an essay on a subject they select from a list of topics relevant to the course. This task will require the student to read broadly around the topics explored during the course, draw connections to related themes and report on the outcomes of modern research. The second assessment task will require the student to give a presentation on a research topic whilst critically assess the achievements and constraints of different experimental approaches. The student will be marked on the depth of their knowledge and critical understanding of the subjects explored.

Study Abroad students may request to take their exam before the semester 1 exam period, in which case the format of the paper may differ from that shown in the MOF. Study Abroad students should contact the school to discuss this.

Reading Lists