Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1
A Level Physics
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 4 X 1 hour workshops
Lecture 18 X 1 hour lectures


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 2 Hours   Written Examination  70%
Semester Assessment Example Sheets  30%
Supplementary Assessment 2 Hours   Written Examination  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Understand the principles of the zeroth and first laws of thermodynamics and the kinetic theory of gases and apply these to solve associated problems.
2. Describe wave propagation in mathematical notation and understand its applications.
3. Understand the basic principles of geometric and physical optics and describe their uses in optical instruments and techniques.
4. Understand diffraction and the limits to resolution for optical instruments.
5. Describe the operation of a laser and give examples of the use of the coherence properties of laser light.

Brief description

The thermal physics component of this module deals with processes related to the conversion of heat to work and vice versa. The thermal processes can be understood both on the macroscopic scale and the atomic level. The zeroth and first laws of thermodynamics and concepts of heat and work are introduced by considering the gas system. The microscopic approach of kinetic theory is introduced.
Optics is one of the most successful branches of classical physics and applications occur throughout technology, ranging from microscopy to photonics. This course gives the basic theory of waves, geometrical and physical optics. Applications of these in modern technology are discussed.


The module introduces thermal physics with discussion of macroscopic and microscopic processes. It also develops the principles and techniques of geometrical optics and the wave nature of light. Emphasis is placed on the solution of problems through example sheets that include numerical exercises. This module is a core module for honours degree schemes in physics and prepares the student for use of the topics in the more advance studies of Part 2.


1. Ideal gas: state variables, change of state, equation of state, ideal gas law.
2. Zeroth law of thermodynamics: thermal equilibrium, temperature and temperature scales.
3. First law of thermodynamics: internal energy, heat, work; isothermal isobaric and adiabatic processes; heat capacity and latent heat.
4. Kinetic theory of gases: derivation of pressure from mechanical reasoning; Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution; rms-mean-probable speed; temperature and population of energy levels.

1. Travelling waves: wavelength, frequency, phase velocity, group velocity.
2. Examples: waves on string, sound waves, electromagnetic waves.
3. Wave phenomena: superposition of waves, Doppler effect.
4. Wave equation.

1. geometric and physical optics and their use in optical instruments and techniques.
2. dispersion, interference, diffraction (single and multiple slits).
3. limits to resolution for optical instruments.
4. operation of a laser and examples of the use of the coherence properties of laser light.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number All questions set in example sheets and formal exams have numerical problems.
Improving own Learning and Performance The electronic homework packages are designed to encourage self-directed learning and improve performance. This is to be assessed via the online grade books.
Information Technology Students will be expected to research topics within the module via the internet.
Personal Development and Career planning The module will highlight the latest technological developments in these fields and will contribute to career development.
Problem solving Problem solving skills are developed throughout this module and tested in assignments and in the written examination.
Research skills Directed reading and the electronic homework package will allow students to explore the background to the lecture modules. This will be addressed by the online homework. Students will also be set problems in lectures which will entail research in library and over the internet.
Subject Specific Skills
Team work


This module is at CQFW Level 4