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


  • Foundations of Physics 3 (PHYS3522) AND Theoretical Physics (PHYS3551) AND Thermal and Condensed Matter Physics (PHYS2531).


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module is designed primarily for students studying Department of Physics or Natural Sciences degree programmes.
  • It builds on the Level 3 modules Foundations of Physics 3 (PHYS3522) and Theoretical Physics (PHYS3551) and provides a working knowledge of non-relativistic quantum mechanical problems at an advanced level appropriate to Level 4 physics students.


  • The syllabus contains:
  • Revision of electronic structure and Bloch's theorem, many-body Schrodinger equation, Hartree and Hartree-Fock theories, density functional theory, electron exchange and correlation, modern methods of electronic structure calculation. Phonons in three dimensions, beyond the harmonic approximation. Elementary excitations in solids. Superconductivity: historical overview, Meissner effect, Cooper pairs, the superconducting phase transition, supercurrents, the London and Ginzburg-Landau theories, Josephson effects, BCS theory of superconductivity.
  • Quantization of light, creation and annihilation operators, Hamiltonian of the field, number states, coherent states, squeezed states, photon bunching and anti-bunching, density operator, pure states, mixed states, entangled states, decoherence, EPR experiments, applications (quantum cryptography, quantum computing, other applications).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Having studied this module students will understand some of the modern theories of electronic structure and vibrational properties of materials including superconductivity.
  • They will understand the quantum nature of light.
  • They will understand the concepts of entangled states and mixed states and their relevance in experiments.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • In addition to the aqusition of subject knowledge, students will be able to apply knowledge of specialist topics in physics to the solution of advanced problems.
  • They will know how to produce a well-structured solution, with clearly-explained reasoning and appropriate presentation.
Key Skills:

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

    • Teaching will be by lectures.
    • 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, lectures will also be supported by the distribution of written material, or by information and relevant links on DUO.
    • Regular problem exercises 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 mutually convenient times.
    • Student performance will be summatively assessed through an examination and regular problem exercises.
    • The examination and problem exercises will provide the means for students to demonstrate the acqusition of subject knowledge and the development of their problem- solving skills.
    • The problem exercises provide opportunities for feedback, for students to gauge their progress and for staff to monitor progress throughout the duration of the module.

    Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

    Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
    Lectures 38 2 per week 1 hour 38
    Preparation and Reading 162
    Total 200

    Summative Assessment

    Component: Examination Component Weighting: 90%
    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%

    Formative Assessment:


    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