Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2009-2010 (archived)


Department: Physics


Type Open Level 4 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2009/10 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • Thermal and Condensed Matter Physics (PHYS2531) and Foundations of Physics 3 (PHYS3522).


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • Condensed Matter Physics (PHYS3531).


  • This module is designed primarily for students studying Department of Physics or Natural Sciences degree programmes.
  • It builds on the Level 2 module Thermal and Condensed Matter Physics (PHYS2531) and provides a working knowledge of the properties of magnetic materials, semiconductors, superconductors and other materials appropriate to Level 4 Physics students not specialising in condensed matter physics.
  • It will develop transferable skills in researching a topic at an advanced level and making a written presentation on the findings.


  • The syllabus contains:
  • Semiconductors: crystal lattices, reciprocal lattice, Brillouin zone, Bloch's theorem, nearly-free electrons, band gaps, energy bands, effective masses, tight binding model, intrinsic and extrinsic semiconductors, holes, p- and n-type impurities, Fermi level. Electron and hole motion in electromagnetic fields, scattering mechanisms, optical properties, p-n junctions, depletion layers.
  • Magnetic Properties: paramagnetism, mean field theory, ferromagnetism, antiferromagnetism, Curie-Weiss law, magnetic excitations, bulk magnetic properties, domains walls, magnetostriction, magnetic order and exchange interaction, Heisenberg Hamiltonian. Critical temperature and field, London equation, type I and type II superconductors, vortex states, flux pinning.
  • Dielectrics: Debye equation, piezoelectric, ferroelectric and pyroelectric materials.
  • Nonlinear Properties and Nanomagnetism: Non-linear optics and electro-optic effect and applications, liquid crystals, nanomagnetic devices.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Having studied this module students will be familiar with some of the key properties of semiconducting, superconducting and magnetic materials.
  • They will be able to describe the properties of electrons and holes in semiconductors, how the properties of semiconductors can be modified by doping agents and through the influence of electromagnetic radiation, and the operation of simple semiconducting devices.
  • They will have an appreciation of the phenomenology and underlying physics of magnetic and superconducting materials.
  • They will understand the different types of magnetic materials and superconductors that can occur and their practical uses.
  • They will have an understanding of the basic electronic, optical and magnetic properties and applications of a range of technologically important materials.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • In addition to the acquisition of subject knowledge, students will be able to apply the principles of physics to the solution of complex problems.
  • They will know how to produce a well-structured solution, with clearly-explained reasoning and appropriate presentation.
Key Skills:
  • Students will have developed skills in researching a topic at an advanced level and making a written presentation.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching will be by lectures and examples classes.
  • The lectures provide the means to give a concise, focused presentation of the subject matter of the module. The lecture material will be explicitly linked to the contents of recommended textbooks for the module, thus making clear where students can begin private study. When appropriate, the lectures will also be supported by distribution of written material, or by information and relevant links on DUO.
  • Regular problem exercises and example classes will give students the chance to develop their theoretical understanding and problem solving skills.
  • Students will be able to obtain further help in their studies by approaching their lecturers, either after lectures or at other mutually convenient times.
  • Lecturers will provide a list of advanced topics related to the module content. Students will be required to research one of these topics in depth and write an extended essay on it. Some guidance on the research and feedback on the essay will be provided by the lecturer.
  • Student performance will be summatively assessed through an examination, problem exercises and the extended essay. The examination and problem exercises will provide the means for students to demonstrate the acquisition of subject knowledge and the development of their problem-solving skills. The extended essay will provide the means for students to demonstrate skills in researching a topic at an advanced level and making a written presentation.
  • The problem exercises and example classes provide opportunity for feedback, for students to gauge their progress and for staff to monitor progress.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 40 2 per week 1 Hour 40
Example Classes 8 Fortnightly 1 Hour 8
Preparation and Reading 152
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
one three-hour written examination 100%
Component: Problem exercises Component Weighting: 10%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
problem exercises 100%
Component: Extended essay Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
extended essay 100%

Formative Assessment:

Example classes and problems solved therein.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University