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Unit information: Advanced Physical & Theoretical Chemistry in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Advanced Physical & Theoretical Chemistry
Unit code CHEM30006
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Western
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Chemistry
Faculty Faculty of Science


This unit develops the physical and theoretical chemistry given in CHEM 20190 to expand that essential base of physical chemistry into this more advanced level of study. The unit covers the main areas of the subject, covering physical chemistry of molecular systems as well as extended systems (nanoscience and soft matter). Specifically, advanced aspects of molecular structure and spectroscopy will be covered, as well as advanced topics in chemical kinetics e.g. reaction dynamics. For extended systems, the focus will be on molecular organization, and on soft matter and self-assembling systems.

This unit aims to provide a deepening understanding and widening knowledge of the physical and theoretical chemistry of molecular systems, as well as systems beyond the molecule, e.g. nano-scale objects and self-assembled phases. The level is appropriate for a BSc student and will enable progress to even more advanced aspects in a variety of areas of physical chemistry. The implications of these ideas are illustrated with real world examples to set them in context and highlight their relevance in the modern scientific world. The unit aims to explore key aspects of new areas of chemistry which build upon and broaden concepts introduced in the second year.

Specific Topics:

• Advanced understanding of molecular spectroscopy

• Detailed understanding of the role of energy levels in statistical mechanics

• The link between potential energy surfaces, reaction dynamics and kinetics

• The role of energy transfer in gas phase and solution reactions

• The role of molecular structure and interactions in defining phase behaviour

• Kinetics of phase separation (e.g. nucleation theory)

• Properties of single molecules, melts and solutions of polymers

• Interactions between molecules and self-assembly

• Micelles, surfactant mesophases, and self-assembly at interfaces

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of the course students will be able to:

  • Predict properties of polymer chains using scaling arguments in polymer physics
  • Discuss the phase behaviour of small molecules and of C60, as well as the phase transition kinetics
  • Describe and predict the structure and dynamics of various states of matter, especially gases and liquids
  • Predict how the stability of colloidal systems depends on ion concentration, charge, polymer conformation, and intermolecular forces.
  • Identify the key molecular factors which determine the stability of colloidal and nanoscale systems
  • Predict the form of molecular and atomic spectra, and relate these to energy levels and other atomic and molecular properties.
  • Predict the rates of chemical reactions, and relate experimental measurements using molecular beam and laser spectroscopy methods to theoretical descriptions of reaction mechanisms.
  • Discuss the interactions and thermodynamics of molecular self-assembly

Teaching details

Lectures, workshops and masterclasses (interactive seminar sessions of the whole class) and independent study. An on-line learning environment provides important e-learning resource in advance of workshop sessions. Pre-workshop online material will be provided to assist students with the contact workshop.

Assessment Details

Students will assessed by one 3 hour written exam (summative 100%).

Reading and References

E Physical Chemistry, P. W. Atkins, 9th ed. (currently 22 copies in library)

R Reaction Dynamics, M Brouard, Oxford Chemistry Primer # 61 (currently 8 copies in library)

R Molecular Driving Forces Statistical Thermodynamics in Chemistry and Biology, KA Dill and S Bromberg, 2nd edition, Garland Science (currently 11 copies in library)

R Chemical structure and reactivity: an integrated approach / James Keeler, Peter Wothers, OUP, 2008 (currently 7 copies in library).

R An introduction to soft matter - synthetic and biological self-assembling materials, 2nd Ed, Wiley (2007), Ian Hamley (currently 6 copies in library).