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Durham University

Department of Physics

PHYS4261 Foundations of Physics 4B (2013/14)

Details of the module's prerequisites, learning outcomes, assessment and contact hours are given in the official module description in the Faculty Handbook - follow the link above.  A detailed description of the module's content is given below, together with book lists and a link to the current library catalogue entries.  For an explanation of the library's categorisation system see


Statistical Physics

Dr N. Gidopoulos

18 lectures + 3 examples classes in Michaelmas Term


Required: Statistical Physics: Enlarged Edition, A. M. Guenault (Springer, 2nd Edition)
The course is defined by material contained in this book, in particular Chapters 1-15.


Syllabus:  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

Prof P.D. Hatton & Dr H. Kusumaatmaja

30 lectures + 5 examples classes in Michaelmas & Epiphany term


Required: Introduction to Solid State Physics, C. Kittel (Wiley, 8th Ed.)
The course is defined by material contained in this book, in particular Chapters 1-16.

Syllabus: 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.


2 lectures in Easter Term, one by each lecturer

Teaching Methods

Lectures: 2 or 3 one-hour lectures per week.

Examples classes: These provide an opportunity to work through and digest the course material by attempting exercises and assignments assisted by direct interaction with the lecturers and demonstrators. Students will be divided into groups, each of which will attend one one-hour class every week.

Dissertation: Students undertake a dissertation in Physics of approximately 3000 words in length.
The subject matter is to be chosen with the advice of the course lecturers who will provide a list of suitable topics. The aim should be to pick a topic which has a high physics content appropriate for Level 4, which is accessible to the student and can be readily researched, and which can be discussed satisfactorily within the word count limit. The technical level should be advanced, rather than introductory.
Students should discuss with the lecturer the qualities expected in the dissertation, but an indication of these is given in the mark proforma used for assessment. The proforma will be made available to students for their information at the beginning of the Michaelmas Term. The dissertation is summatively assessed.
The marked dissertations along with the completed proformas (giving the marks awarded for the dissertation) will be returned to students before the end of the Epiphany Term.

Problem exercises: See