MEng Materials Science and Engineering with Textiles Technology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Equilibrium Thermodynamics

Course unit fact file
Unit code MATS15201
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 4
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Department of Materials
Available as a free choice unit? No


This unit introduces the fundamental concepts, tools, conventions and calculations of thermodynamics that are used in materials science. The topics in this unit are designed to show how disorder and energy, in all its forms, can be used to predict the stability of materials and to determine whether there is a driving force for them to change. 


The unit introduces how we measure energy and order in materials, and how to use those values to predict how materials can be made, changed and broken down.


Learning outcomes

A greater depth of the learning outcomes will be covered in the following sections:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Intellectual skills
  • Practical skills
  • Transferable skills and personal qualities

Teaching and learning methods

Watching and understanding pre-recorded (asynchronous) lectures, attending and participating in live (synchronous) lectures, completing formative assessments associated with pre-recorded lecture components, participating in anonymous formative quizzes run within lectures, working with peers and graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) during tutorials (problem sessions) and practical laboratories, consulting recommended textbooks, complementing recommended resources with web resources, reviewing general and personal feedback on assessed coursework, completing questions on past exam papers, reviewing recorded lectures, working with current and previous members of the year group in  peer-assisted study sessions (PASS).

Knowledge and understanding

a. Contrast the different ways that energy is quantified in thermodynamics and be able to explain which is most appropriate to use for a process or transformation.
b. Define how disorder and energy determine the stability of materials.

Intellectual skills

a. Define fundamental thermodynamic quantities such as enthalpy, entropy, heat, work and free energy, and show their mathematical relationships to each other using words and symbols. 
b. Calculate values for heat required, equilibrium composition, etc. for chemical and phase changes.

Practical skills

a. Identify single-component materials based on calorimetry results.
b. Simulate corrosion in simple metallic systems.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

a. Apply techniques for estimating the results from calculations.
b. Apply techniques to calculate propagation of uncertainty.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 70%
Report 30%

Feedback methods

Feedback given (written/oral).

Recommended reading

  • “Atkins’ physical chemistry” P.W. Atkins and J. De Paula, 2010, 9ed, Oxford University Press: Oxford. (Editions 5 and later are fine.)
  • “Biological thermodynamics” D.T. Haynie, 2009, 2ed, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
  • “Phase transformations in metals and alloys” D.A. Porter and K.E. Easterling, 1992, 2ed, Taylor & Francis Group: Boca Raton. (Edition 3 is less good.) 
  • “Engineering mathematics” K.A. Stroud and D.J. Booth, 2007, 6ed, Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke.
  • “Student’s solutions manual to accompany Atkins’ physical chemistry, ninth edition” C.A. Trapp, M.P. Cady, C. Giunta and P.W. Atkins, 2010, Oxford University Press: Oxford. (Editions 5 and later are fine.)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 80

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Christopher Blanford Unit coordinator

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