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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, batteries and energy processes, and in furthering our understanding of chemical structure.

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) Electrochemistry, (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.

Electrochemistry (Section B) will explore the principles of electrochemistry in relation to energy processes. It will deal with charge transfer reactions, electrochemical kinetics, electrochemical processes in energy conversion and storage. Industrial examples will be discussed. Also, the importance of interfacial processes versus bulk processes will be emphasised.

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.

Prof U Stimming
Electrochemistry: thermodynamic description; kinetics, Butler -Volmer eq. , Arrhenius description, charge transfer reactions. Fuel cells, Batteries and Supercaps: principles of energy conversion and storage, electrocatalysis, Faradaic reactions and non-Faradaic reactions; Types of fuel cells, their functioning and their application. Classification of batteries, Faradaic, intercalation, and redox flow batteries and their principles of operation. Examples for each type and current and potential application.

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

Please note that module leaders are reviewing the module teaching and assessment methods for Semester 2 modules, in light of the Covid-19 restrictions. There may also be a few further changes to Semester 1 modules. Final information will be available by the end of August 2020 in for Semester 1 modules and the end of October 2020 for Semester 2 modules.

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials201:0020:00A combination of short recordings of lecture material and text published on VLE each week
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion121:0021:00Delivered through a combination of online chats, small group discussion, and discussion boards.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion211:0021:00Online - module lecturer will direct students to relevant reading for essay consisting of two topics
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion115:0015:00Essay (100%)
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study123:0023:00Background reading of topics within the module
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Students acquire knowledge and understanding through taught material and small group tutorials and by the way of research articles available on the web. Handouts will provide additional knowledge. Students will have opportunity to talk to specialists about the experimental protocols central to the module. 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.

Student will independently research their two topics for the essay assessment and will have prepared for online discussion with lecturers.

Online discussion will be delivered through a combination of online chats, small group discussion of 3-4 students and discussion boards.

Assessment Methods

Please note that module leaders are reviewing the module teaching and assessment methods for Semester 2 modules, in light of the Covid-19 restrictions. There may also be a few further changes to Semester 1 modules. Final information will be available by the end of August 2020 in for Semester 1 modules and the end of October 2020 for Semester 2 modules.

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M100Assignment with a maximum of 6 A4 pages.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The student will complete an essay consisting of two topics relevant to the course. One topic will be assigned from student selection and one at random. 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 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