Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Probing Atoms and Molecules
Academic Year
Semester 2
PH23720, and successful completion of Year 2.
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 20 lectures
Seminars / Tutorials 3
Workload Breakdown Example sheets 20 hours
Workload Breakdown lectures 20 hours
Workload Breakdown Tutorials 3 hrs
Workload Breakdown Private study 57 hours


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 2 Hours   70%
Semester Assessment 3 example sheets  30%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   100%

Learning Outcomes

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

1. classify the states of single and multielectron atoms

2. perform vector addition of angular momentum using LS or jj coupling schemes

3. predict allowed transitions in atoms from selection rules

4. calculate electron energy level shifts in a magnetic field

5. predict and analyse: the rotational/vibrational spectra of polyatomic molecules; Zeeman spectra of atoms;electron spin resonance of simple molecules


Atoms and molecules are the basic building blocks of all matter. Therefore, an understanding of the structure of these entities and their interactions is crucial to a complete understanding of matter. This module will use the quantum theory to make predictions about atomic and molecular states and look at the experimental methods by which such evidence can be obtained which verifies these predictions. A strong part of the course is in providing the means to interpret simple spectra of atoms and molecules.

Brief description

This module will discuss the structure of atoms and molecules, discussing theoretical models developed from quantum theory and their verification using the tools of a variety of spectroscopic methods including Raman and infra-red spectroscopy; Zeeman spectroscopy; electron spin resonsance and nuclear magnetic resonance.


Spectroscopy of the hydrogen atom - gross, fine, and hyperfine structure. Orbital and spin angular momentum in hydrogen. Spin-orbit coupling. Many electron atoms - indistinguishability and the Pauli Exclusion Principle. LS and jj-coupling. Hund's rules.
Optical selection rules in atoms. Alkali and rare earth spectra. Helium and configuration interaction. Zeeman effect - space quantisation. The Spin Hamiltonian. Hyperfine structure - nuclear spin. Rydberg states.
Born-Oppenheimer approximation. Rotational, vibrational and electronic spectra of diatomic and polyatomic molecules.

Microwave and Infra-red absoption spectroscopy; Raman spectroscopy; Zeeman spectroscopy; electron spin resonance; nuclear magnetic resonance.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number All questions set in example sheets and formal exams have numerical problems
Communication Written communication is developed via lecture assignments
Improving own Learning and Performance Assessments are used in order that students might reflect on their progress during the module
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 research in this fields and hence will develop, to an extent, career development.
Problem solving Problem solving is a key skill in physics and this wil be tested via lecture problem sheets and in formal examination at the end of the module
Research skills Students will be set problems in lectures which will entail research in library and over the internet

Reading List

Recommended Text
Banwell, C.N. & McMash, E.M (1994) Fundamentals of Molecular Spectroscopy 4th Edition McGraw-Hill Primo search Softly, T. P. (1994) Atomic Spectra Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6