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Unit information: Advanced Physical & Theoretical Chemistry in 2021/22

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

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions, including lectures, workshops and independent study, supported by drop-in sessions, problem sheets and self-directed exercises. The Dynamic Laboratory Manual provides important e-learning resources in advance of workshop sessions. Pre-workshop online material will be provided to assist students with workshops.

Assessment Details

Students will assessed by one written exam at the end of the unit (summative 100%).


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. CHEM30006).