Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)


Department: Physics


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • Foundations of Physics 1 (PHYS1122) AND (Single Mathematics A (MATH1561) and Single Mathematics B (MATH1571)) OR Core Mathematics A (MATH1012).


  • Mathematical Methods in Physics (PHYS2631) OR Analysis in Many Variables II (MATH2031) which covers similar material.

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 1 module Foundations of Physics 1 (PHYS1122) by providing courses on Thermodynamics, Condensed Matter Physics and Modern Optics.


  • The syllabus contains:
  • Thermodynamics: Revision of basic ideas, zeroth law and temperature; Definitions of state variables; Heat engines and the second law; Clausius inequality, Entropy and entropy change; Availability of Energy; Heat and refrigeration cycles; Maxwell's relations; Equilibrium, equations of state and phase transitions; Third law of thermodynamics; Basic postulates of statistical mechanics; Boltzmann formulation of entropy; Stirling's approximation; Boltzmann distribution function; Relationship between entropy and number of microstates in a macrostate; Bose–Einstein and Fermi–Dirac distribution functions.
  • Condensed Matter Physics: Review of crystal structures and their description; Wave Diffraction and the Reciprocal Lattice; Crystal binding and Elastic Constants; Phonons; The Drude model; Free Electron Fermi Gas Model; Energy Bands; Bending of energy bands close to the Brillouin zone boundary; Metals, Semimetals, Semiconductors and Insulators.
  • Modern Optics: Review of Electromagnetism; Plane waves and spherical waves; Fourier transforms: linearity, convolution, shifting, scaling; Propagating the solution to the wave equation using the angular spectral method; Gaussian beams; Near-field (Fresnel) and far-field (Fraunhofer) diffraction; Simple cases: single and double slits, multiple slits; Phasors; 2D diffraction: letters, and circular apertures; Diffraction limit: Rayleigh criterion, Heisenberg microscope; Spatial filtering; Babinet’s Principle; Apodization; Fabry Perot: Gaussian modes of a cavity; Lasers and cavities.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Having studied this module students will have an understanding of the thermodynamics of matter, the four laws of thermodynamics and their application.
  • They will have appreciation of distributions of classical and quantum particles leading to a discussion of entropy and temperature. • They will have the ability to describe the arrangement of atoms in a crystal structure and the diffraction pattern that results in both direct and reciprocal space.
  • They will have an understanding of elastic vibrations of atoms in crystals and how these vibrations are quantised into phonons.
  • They will have knowledge of the concept of phonons and how these explain the thermal properties of solids.
  • They will have knowledge of the breakdown in classical physics and how to apply quantum mechanics to the study of electrons in crystalline solids, the nature of electron states and how metallic, semiconducting and insulating materials arise.
  • They will have an appreciation of X-ray and neutron scattering as a probe of crystal structure, vibrational, and electronic properties of solids in 2 and 3 dimensions.
  • They will be able to use Fourier methods to describe interference and diffraction and their applications in modern optics.
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 predictable and unpredictable 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 and tutorial-style workshops.
    • The lectures provide the means to give concise, focused presentation of the subject matter of the module. The lecture material will be defined by, and explicitly linked to, the contents of the recommended textbooks for the module, thus making clear where students can begin private study. When appropriate, the lectures will also be supported by the distribution of written material, or by information and relevant links on DUO.
    • Regular problem exercises and workshops 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.
    • Student performance will be summatively assessed through an examination and problem exercises. 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 problem exercises and workshops 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 50 2 or 3 per week 1 hour 50
    Workshops 10 Fortnightly 1 hour 10
    Preparation and Reading 140
    TOTAL 200

    Summative Assessment

    Component: Examination Component Weighting: 90%
    Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
    Written Examination 3 hours 100%
    Component: Problem Exercises Component Weighting: 10%
    Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
    Problem Exercises 100% Answering a sheet of problems during the vacation

    Formative Assessment:

    Workshops 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