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PHY2036 : Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Patrick Briddon
  • Owning School: Mathematics, Statistics and Physics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

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

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


To enhance the students' knowledge of thermodynamics and to develop their understanding of how thermodynamics relates to other elements of physics.

To provide a knowledge and understanding of statistical mechanics and how this can be used to understand the behaviour of collections of large numbers of particles such as atoms, electrons, photons and phonons.

Outline Of Syllabus

Thermodynamics: Fundamental Laws and principles, entropy and conditions for equilibrium. Heat engines, heat pumps and refrigerators. The thermodynamic potentials, F, G and H and their use. Maxwell’s relations and techniques for the transformation of thermodynamic derivatives. Applications illustrating the utility of this theory including the cooling of gases; phase changes; attaining absolute zero; chemical reactions and equilibria, black holes and cosmology.

Statistical Mechanics: Foundational principles, microstates and macrostates. Statistical interpretation of entropy. S = k ln?. The Boltzmann distribution: the 2-level system, the harmonic oscillator and heat capacity of solids. The dilute gas: ideal monatomic and diatomic gases. Indistinguishability, fermions and bosons. Fermi-Dirac distribution with application of electrons in metals. The Bose-Einstein distributions with applications to black body radiation; the Einstein and Debye models of heat capacity of solids and Bose-Einstein condensation in liquid helium. Interacting systems and the Ising Model. A further review of principles underlying statistical mechanics: ergodic theory and discussion.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion301:0030:00Completion of in course assessments
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture41:004:00Revision Lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture401:0040:00Formal Lectures
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1261:00126:00Preparation time for lectures, background reading, coursework review
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures are used for the delivery of theory and explanation of methods, illustrated with examples, and for giving general feedback on marked work.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1502A80N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Prob solv exercises1M5Problem-solving exercises assessment
Prob solv exercises1M5Problem-solving exercises assessment
Prob solv exercises2M5Problem-solving exercises assessment
Prob solv exercises2M5Problem-solving exercises assessment
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

A substantial formal unseen examination is appropriate for the assessment of the material in this module. The coursework assignments allow the students to develop their problem solving techniques, to practise the methods learnt in the module, to assess their progress and to receive feedback; these assessments have a secondary formative purpose as well as their primary summative purpose.

On-line alternative assessment for written examination 1. In the event of on-campus examinations not being possible, an on-line alternative assessment will be used for written examination 1.

Reading Lists