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), Condensed Matter Physics (PHYS3531).


  • Condensed Matter Physics 4 (PHYS4111) if Condensed Matter Physics (PHYS3531) has not been taken in Year 3.

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 Condensed Matter Physics (PHYS3531) and provides a knowledge of the behaviour of electrons in low-dimensional solids, semiconductor and optoelectronic devices and analytical solid state techniques at an advanced level appropriate to Level 4 physics students.


  • The syllabus contains:
  • Semiconductor Devices: p-n Junction : drift and diffusion currents at equilibrium, charge distribution, abrupt junction depletion width, current–voltage characteristics and depletion capacitance. Bipolar Transistor: transistor action, current gain, static characteristics. Field Effect Transistor: JFET principles of operation, current–voltage characteristics and channel conductance. MOS Devices: MOS diode, MOSFET basic characteristics, threshold voltage, device scaling and miniaturisation, integrated circuits and charge-coupled devices. Light Emitting Diodes (LED): efficiency, visible LED and relative eye response. Laser Diodes: carrier confinement, homojunction and heterojunction laser diodes, emission spectra and lasing threshold, optical confinement.
  • Low Dimensional Solids: Length scales of quantum confinement. Infinitely deep quantum well. Two, one and zero dimensional confinement. Density of states. Fabrication techniques: epitaxy and lithography. Energy levels, envelope wavefunction approach, band structure. Finite depth quantum well. Two dimensional excitons. Optical properties. Type I and II superlattices. Tunnelling through single and double barriers. Two dimensional electron gas, modulation doping, conductance, mobility, Landau levels, quantised Hall effect. Quantum wires, ballistic transport, conductance quantization, quantum point contact. Quantum dots. Impact of low dimensional structures on optical and electrical devices. Future developments.
  • Solid State Analytical Techniques: Mass spectroscopy and secondary ion mass spectroscopy. Electronic energy levels in atoms and solids. X-ray photo-electron spectroscopy. Auger electron spectroscopy. X-ray analysis and microanalysis: instrumentation and capabilities. Scanning electron microscopy, focussed ion beam tools. Imaging optics, transmission electron microscopy, electron optics. The reciprocal lattice and diffraction phenomena. Kinematical theory of diffraction. Diffraction contrast imaging.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Having studied this module students will be familiar with the basic properties and operation of a range of semiconducting devices.
  • They will be able to explain the observed behaviour of electrons in solids when the electrons are confined in one or more directions.
  • They will be able to give an overview of the analytical techniques used in solid state physics.
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 39 2 per week 1 hour 39
    Preparation and Reading 161
    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