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NES1404 : Fundamentals of Physical Chemistry

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Ben Horrocks
  • Lecturer: Dr Fabio Cucinotta, Dr Nick Walker
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


Physical chemistry sits at the interface of chemistry and physics. It is concerned with those fundamental physical laws that have the most profound consequences for chemistry, biology, our use of energy and material resources, and atmospheric chemistry. This module explores the reasons for chemical change, the speed of chemical reactions and the interaction of light with matter. It will be contextualised using examples from environmental chemistry, renewable energy technology, chemical analysis and astrochemistry.

Outline Of Syllabus

Thermodynamics deals with energy in all its forms and the feasibility of chemical processes. It has current relevance in renewable energy technology.
State functions and the laws of thermodynamics
Energy, enthalpy, entropy and free energy
Properties of gases
Liquids, solids and phase changes
Mixtures, chemical equilibria and electrochemistry

Kinetics deals with the rate of chemical change and is particularly strongly connected to our understanding of reactions mechanism across the breadth of the subject.
Reaction rates and mechanisms
Using mathematics to develop reaction models
Rate laws and rate constants
The role of temperature and activation barriers
Transition state theory
Multi-step reactions and intermediates

Spectroscopy and quantum theory provide the basis for our understanding of molecular structure, bonding and properties.
General introduction to quantum mechanics and spectroscopy
Electronic spectroscopy
Vibrational and rotational spectroscopy
Spectroscopy and Temperature
Magnetic resonance spectroscopies

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion800:3040:00Prep for written examination.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture331:0033:00Lectures, traditional and flipped.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion12:002:00End of semester examination
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities301:0030:00Canvas / NUMBAS quizzes
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading171:0071:00Background reading and working out exercises from calculation classes
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops241:0024:00PiP and weekly problem-solving workshops.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

A variety of methods will be used for delivery of the material and to ensure that students actively engage with the subject matter. Traditional lecture delivery will be interleaved with ‘flipped’ lectures based on provision of recorded online material and accompanying exercises for the students to attempt prior to interactive workshop-style sessions. Regular formative exercises will be employed using the NUMBAS system to ensure that students spend time actively working with the material throughout the module to improve their ability to utilise their mathematical skills in a chemical context.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1202A100N/A
Zero Weighted Pass/Fail Assessments
Description When Set Comment
Prob solv exercisesMAssessment of engagement with workshops.
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Computer assessment2MPractice calculations. In-class exercises will be given using the NUMBAS system and Canvas quizzes.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The summative written examination will assess the level of knowledge and understanding of all aspects of the
module. The examination will present students with questions from a selection of topics learnt throughout the module content.

Regular formative exercises will be employed using the NUMBAS system to ensure that students spend time actively working with the material throughout the module to improve their ability to utilise their mathematical skills in a chemical context.

The zero-weighted pass/ fail assessment will be used to assess student engagement with workshops. Students must pass this in order to pass the module.

** Students studying from abroad 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. These students should contact the school to discuss this **

Reading Lists