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Durham University

Faculty Handbook Archive

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2013-14. The current handbook year is 2019-20

Department: Physics


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2013/14 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • Foundations of Physics 2A (PHYS2581) AND Foundations of Physics 2B (PHYS2591) AND (Mathematical Methods in Physics (PHYS2611) OR Analysis in Many Variables (MATH2031)).


  • Foundations of Physics 3A (PHYS3621)

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 2 modules Foundations of Physics 2A (PHYS2581), Foundations of Physics 2B (PHYS2591) and Mathematical Methods in Physics (PHYS2611) by providing courses on Statistical Physics and Condensed Matter Physics appropriate to Level 3 students.


  • The syllabus contains:
  • Statistical Physics: Introduction and basic ideas:- macro and microstates, distributions; distinguishable particles, thermal equilibrium, temperature, the Boltzmann distribution, partition functions, examples of Boltzmann statistics: spin-1/2 solid and localized harmonic oscillators; Gases: the density of states: fitting waves into boxes, the distributions, fermions and bosons, counting particles, microstates and statistical weights; Maxwell-Boltzmann gases: distribution of speeds, connection to classical thermodynamics; diatomic gases: Energy contributions, heat capacity of a diatomic gas, hydrogen; Fermi-Dirac gases: properties, application to metals and helium-3; Bose-Einstein gases: properties, application to helium-4, phoney bosons; entropy and disorder, vacancies in solids; phase transitions: types, ferromagnetism of a spin-1/2 solid, real ferromagnetic materials, order-disorder transformations in alloys; statics or dynamics? ensembles, chemical thermodynamics: revisiting chemical potential, the grand canonical ensemble, ideal and mixed gases; dealing with interactions: electrons in metals, liquid helium 3 and 4, real imperfect gases; statistics under extreme conditions: superfluid states in Fermi-Dirac systems, statics in astrophysical systems.
  • Condensed Matter Physics: Review of the effect of a periodic potential, energy gap. Fermi surfaces, reduced and extended zone schemes; semiconductor crystals: crystal structures, band gaps, equations of motion, intrinsic carrier concentration, impurity conductivity; Fermi surfaces and metals: electron and hole orbits, energy bands, De Haas-van Alpen effect; superconductivity: experimental and theoretical survey, high temperature superconductors; diamagnetism and paramagnetism: Langevin equation; quantum theory of paramagnetism, Hund’s rules, crystal field splitting, paramagnetism of conduction electrons; ferromagnetism and antiferromagnetism: Curie point, exchange integral, magnons, antiferromagnetism, magnetic susceptibility, magnetic domains; magnetic resonance, nuclear magnetic resonance, hyperfine splitting, electron paramagnetic resonance; plasmons, polaritons, and polarons: dielectric function, electrostatic screening, electron–electron and electron–phonon interactions; dielectrics and ferroelectrics: macroscopic and local electric fields, dielectric constant and polarizilbility, structural phase transitions.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Having studied this module, students will understand the use of statistical concepts such as temperature and entropy and models to describe systems with a large number of weakly interacting particles.
  • They will build on their knowledge of nearly-free electron theory, and other concepts gained at Level 2, to explain the properties of semiconductors, superconductors, dielectric and magnetic materials.
  • They will understand the common theoretical treatment of quasiparticles and the experimental techniques used to understand the behaviour of materials.
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 complex 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 example classes.
    • The lectures provide the means to give a 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 example classes 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. These 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 example classes 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 Contact Hours

    Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
    Lectures 50 2 or 3 per week 1 Hour 50
    Examples classes 8 Fortnightly 1 Hour 8
    Preparation and Reading 142
    Total 200

    Summative Assessment

    Component: Examinations 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%

    Formative Assessment:

    Examples classes 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