Module code: PHY1039

Module Overview

This module will introduce the classical physics that is relevant to gases and condensed matter, making use of the thermodynamic equations of state. The emphasis will be on the structure of matter and its relationship to mechanical and thermal properties, such as elasticity and thermal expansivity. Laws of classical thermodynamics will be introduced. The module will prepare the student for the study of solid state physics and advanced thermodynamics at Level FHEQ 5.

Module provider

Mathematics & Physics

Module Leader

MORRISON Lisa (Maths & Phys)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 4

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 40

Lecture Hours: 22

Tutorial Hours: 11

Laboratory Hours: 22

Guided Learning: 44

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:


  • States of matter, open & closed thermodynamic systems, equilibrium states, state variables, types of walls, Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics, and the definition of temperature.

  • Reversible processes, equations of state, ideal & van der Waals gases, phase transitions (solid, liquid & gas), inter-atomic and intermolecular potentials, and the relation between intermolecular interactions & phase transitions.

  • Bulk properties: thermal expansivity, elasticity (bulk modulus, surface tension, and elastic modulus).

  • Types of work, calculations of work, and adiabatic free expansions.

  • Definition of heat, the First Law of Thermodynamics, molecular viewpoint of heat & work, enthalpy, and the thermodynamic method in problem solving.

  • Degrees of freedom in monoatomic, diatomic & triatomic molecules, Heat capacity (Cp and Cv) for gases, introduction to crystal structure, and the heat capacity of solids (Dulong-Petit & Debye limits).

  • Adiabatic expansions of gas, Cp – Cv & Cp/Cv, heat engines, Carnot cycle, efficiency of an engine, Kelvin & Clausius’ statements of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and Carnot’s theorem.

Laboratory experiments

  • Latent heat of liquid nitrogen.

  • Thermal expansion of metals.

  • X-ray diffraction of crystals.

  • Adiabatic work on ideal gases.


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Bi-Weekly Small Group Tutorial Session Questions 10
Practical based assessment LABORATORY COURSEWORK 30

Alternative Assessment

Assessed Laboratory Diary Mark and Report/Poster UoA may be assessed by two laboratory experiments, two diaries and two written reports.

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their practical laboratory skills, abilities to analyse data and subsequently draw conclusions, skills in communicating scientific information, problem-solving abilities, and understanding of fundamental concepts & theory relating to all forms of matter

The summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • Bi-weekly test questions submitted online (weighted at 10% in total).

  • Laboratory coursework (weighted at 30%) consisting of:

  • Laboratory diaries (every 2 weeks).

  • A laboratory report or poster presentation.

  • The Laboratory unit of assessment has a qualifying mark of 40%.

  • A two-hour invigilated examination at the end of the semester (weighted at 60%).

Formative assessment and feedback

During the laboratory sessions, students will be given verbal feedback on their performance and written feedback on their diary-keeping from laboratory instructors.  At the poster session, students will be given verbal feedback on their poster by their peers and laboratory instructors.  At weekly tutorial classes, students will complete problem sets whose model solutions will then be uploaded on Surrey Learn.


Module aims

  • To introduce the basic principles of classical equilibrium thermodynamics.
  • To introduce the Laws of Thermodynamics, and learn how to apply them when problem solving.
  • To introduce the concepts of internal energy and heat, and understand their relevance in the world.
  • To develop mathematical skills for use in describing thermodynamic processes.
  • To relate the microscopic (atomic and molecular) structure of matter to the macroscopic properties of matter, including expansivity and elasticity.
  • To reinforce concepts studied during lectures within laboratory sessions, as well as developing a range of practical and analytical skills in order to verify theory and enhance understanding. The importance of keeping an accurate and clearly-presented laboratory notebook (diary) will be stressed.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Demonstrate understanding of how intermolecular forces relate to the states of matter, and subsequently determine its structure.  KC
002 Show an appreciation of how molecular interactions influence bulk properties, including thermal expansivity and elasticity.  K
003 Show an understanding of the Laws of Thermodynamics and gain the ability to apply them for use in the analysis of simple thermodynamic systems. KC
004 Know the definitions of thermodynamic terms and be able to solve algebraic and numerical problems in thermodynamics. KC
005 Perform a range of experiments, some of intermediate difficulty, in order to develop practical, computational, and analytical skills, by following written instructions. The specific practical skills gained will vary according to the assignment of experiments. P
006 Obtain experimental data, evaluate the accuracy and precision of results, and subsequently draw conclusions through numerical analysis. CPT
007 Keep a comprehensive, accurate, and legible diary of laboratory work, and using this in order to write a report in the style of a scientific paper. PT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

  • Equip students with subject knowledge.

  • Develop skills in applying subject knowledge to physical situations.

  • Enable students to tackle unseen problems in thermodynamics.

  • Develop students' practical skills.

  • Develop students' report-writing skills.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • 22 hours of lectures (2 hours per week for 11 weeks).

  • 11 hours of tutorials (1 hour per week over 11 weeks).

  • 22 hours of practical laboratory work (divided into five 4-hour sessions over 11 weeks).

The total student workload is 150 hours, with the remaining hours consisting of independent study.


Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: PHY1039

Other information

The School of Mathematics and Physics is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability, and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills, and capabilities in the following areas:

Resourcefulness and Resilience

Students will be asked to apply the knowledge and understanding gained during lectures in order to approach and tackle a variety of thermodynamics-based problems in small-group tutorial sessions, and subsequently submit solutions to separately-assessed problems. In addition, through a number of practical-based laboratory classes, students will need to use the concepts introduced during lectures in order to interpret and analyse data collected. They will then need to summarise these findings in the form of an assessed scientific paper/report, and present the outcome of their work in front of their peers during a scientific poster session.


Familiarity with the principles of thermodynamics is key to understanding the mechanisms of energy generation, and this module will explore a range of means by which energy is generated globally, and how these subsequently impact on climate and quality of life. Students will be introduced to a range of 'real-world' scenarios involving energy generation and transportation, and apply the principles and laws of thermodynamics in order to evaluate the efficiency and viability of these mechanisms, both presently and for future generations.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Physics with Astronomy BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics MPhys 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Astronomy MPhys 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics MPhys 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Quantum Computing MPhys 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Mathematics and Physics BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Mathematics and Physics MPhys 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Mathematics and Physics MMath 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2024/5 academic year.