BSc Physics / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Properties of Matter

Course unit fact file
Unit code PHYS10352
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by
Available as a free choice unit? No


Properties of Matter


  1. To show how the properties of macroscopic bodies can be derived from the knowledge that matter is made up from atoms.
  2. To develop the ideas of classical thermodynamics.

Learning outcomes

On completion successful students will be able to:

1. Describe and explain the first and second laws of thermodynamics, and the concept of entropy;

2. Define and derive the fundamental thermodynamic relation;

3. Use the formalism of thermodynamics and apply it to simple systems in thermal equilibrium;

4. Describe techniques for finding appropriate averages to predict macroscopic behaviour;

5. Apply these techniques to the calculation of the properties of matter.



1. Thermodynamics
The First Law: heat, work and internal energy. Functions of state. Reversibility
The Second Law: from heat engines to entropy.
Phase transitions: Gibbs Free energy, Clausius-Clapeyron equation, examples of phase transitions including Van der Waals gas.
2. Solids and liquids
Interactions between atoms: interatomic potentials and bonding.
Introduction to crystal structure and Bragg’s Law.
Elasticity; Young, shear and bulk moduli.
Bernoulli’s equation and incompressible fluid flow.
Liquid surfaces.
Drag: viscose and turbulent drag forces.
3. Kinetic theory of gases        
Boltzmann factor.
Ideal gas equation and internal energy, including internal molecular modes.
Maxwell velocity distribution, mean speed.
Gas molecular collisions: mean free path.
Transport properties of gases; viscosity, thermal conductivity and self-diffusion.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 10%
Written exam 90%

* 10% Tutorial Work/attendance 

Feedback methods

Feedback will be offered by tutors on students’ written solutions to weekly example sheets, and model answers will be issued.

Recommended reading

Young, H.D., Freedman, R. University Physics (Addison-Wesley)


Supplementary texts:

Flowers, B.H., Mendoza, E. Properties of Matter (Wiley)



Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
Lectures 24
Tutorials 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 68.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Paul Walmsley Unit coordinator
Lloyd Cawthorne Unit coordinator

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