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Unit information: Intermediate Physical and Theoretical Chemistry in 2020/21

Unit name Intermediate Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
Unit code CHEM20190
Credit points 30
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. May
Open unit status Not open

CHEM10003*, CHEM10005, CHEM10900* (or equivalent mathematics unit as approved by the School). *Not required for F320, F322, F323



School/department School of Chemistry
Faculty Faculty of Science


This unit develops the introduction to physical chemistry given in CHEM10003, CHEM10005 to provide the essential base of physical chemistry required for advanced study at Levels 6 and 7 (Years 3 and 4). It covers the main areas of the subject e.g. molecular energy, thermodynamics, chemical energy, equilibria, states of matter, properties of solutions (including electrolytes) and interfaces. Workshops are integral to the unit.

Intended learning outcomes

  • Understanding of the simple harmonic oscillator and vibrational modes;
  • Knowledge that confinement leads to quantisation of energy;
  • Understanding of the quantum mechanics of simple atoms and molecules;
  • An understanding of partition functions and density of states;
  • Ability to calculate internal energy and entropy from the partition function;
  • Apply the first and second law of thermodynamics to practical problems;
  • An understanding of Gibbs and Helmholtz energies;
  • Be able to predict a stable phase as a function of temperature;
  • Have an appreciation of the factors that influence equilibria in complex reactions;
  • An appreciation of photochemistry as a way of breaking bonds;
  • Be able to explain how rate equations relate to collision theory and elementary steps;
  • Understand vapour pressures for ideal and real mixtures;
  • Appreciate the stress dynamic nature of a surface;
  • Be able to explain fundamental properties of a curved surface;
  • Be able to apply the Nernst equation to unseen situations;
  • An appreciation of the reactions underpinning electrochemical energy conversion devices such as batteries, fuel cells and supercapacitors;
  • Understand the physical origins of intermolecular forces and molecular interactions;
  • Understand methods to model the structure and dynamics of liquids and protein.

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a blended combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions. Synchronous sessions include lecture style and interactive delivery and workshops. Workshops will in particular provide opportunity for live interaction with groups of students, feedback on exercises set as independent study and preparation for forthcoming material. There will be associated asynchronous activity involving independent study, problem solving and self-directed exercises. Synchronous revision sessions as well as drop-in clinics will be offered.

Assessment Details

End-of-TB1 timed, open-book examination (50%) End-of-TB2 timed, open-book examination (50%)

Reading and References

Essential reading will be from the following books:

Atkins’ Physical Chemistry, 10th Edition, P W Atkins and J de Paula, Oxford University Press 2014.

Further reading from: Dill and Bromberg Molecular Driving Forces, Garland Science, London, 2011.