Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2
Core Physics Modules at Levels 1 & 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 20 x 1-hour lectures and examples classes
Seminars / Tutorials


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 2 Hours   : Written examination  80%
Semester Assessment : 2 Examples sheets  20%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   : Written examination  100%

Learning Outcomes

After taking this module students should be able to:

  • describe such ideas as phase changes.
  • describe low temperature phenomena from a macroscopic and microscopic point of view.
  • explain the basic concepts of statistical mechanics and their application to investigate the properties of matter.

Brief description

This module aims to:
a) build on the introductory thermodynamics course, introducing such ideas as phase changes.
b) introduce phenomena that occur at low temperatures, and to explain these from both a macroscopic and a microscopic point of view.
c) introduce the concepts of statistical mechanics, and use these to investigate the properties of matter.


Thermodynamic potential - internal energy U, enthalpy H, Helmholtz function F and Gibbs function G and their physical significance.
The Maxwell relations.
Derivation of general thermodynamic relations for pure substances.
Phase transitions - first order and higher order transitions.
The attainment of absolute zero temperature.
  • Liquefaction of gases (Joule-Kelvin effect)
  • Adiabatic paramagnetic and nuclear demagnetisation
  • the Third Law of Thermodynamics - the unattainability of absolute zero
  • Liquid helium and superfluidity Superconductivity. Conventional superconductors and the BCS theory. Survey high Tc superconductors.
  • Assembly of distinguishable particles: Boltzmann distribution, Partition function, link to thermodynamic quantities, examples
  • Assembly of indistinguishable particles (gases): Fermi-Dirac and Bose-Einstein distributions, Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution, examples

Reading List

Recommended Text
C. Finn Thermal Physics Chapman Hall Primo search D.H. Trevana Statistical Mechanics Ellis Horwood Primo search
Supplementary Text
A. Kent Experimental Low-Temperature Physics MacMillan Primo search P. Reidi Thermal Physics Oxford Scientific Primo search T Guenault Statistical Physics Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6