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Durham University

Department of Physics

PHYS3671 Foundations of Physics 3C (2018/19)

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



Dr G.P. Swift

14 lectures + 6 workshops in Michaelmas Term


Required: Concepts in Thermal Physics, S. J. Blundell and K.M. Blundell (Oxford, 2nd Edition, 2010)
The course is defined by material contained in this book, in particular Chapters, 1, 2, 4, 5, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28.

Additional: Thermodynamics, an Engineering Approach Y.A. Cengel and M.A. Boles (McGraw-Hill Education 2nd revised Edition, 1997)
Additional: Statistical Physics: Enlarged Edition, A.M. Guenault (Springer, 2nd Edition, 2007)

Additional: The Laws of Thermodynamics: a Very Short Introduction, P.Atkins (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Syllabus: Revision of basic ideas, Heat, Zeroth law and temperature; Definition of state variables, forms of energy and chemical potential, the First Law; Heat engines and the Second law, Clausius inequality, Entropy and entropy change; Entropy change in reversible and non-reversible processes; Thermodynamic Potentials and Maxwell’s Relations; Availability of Energy and applications of entropy; Heat and refrigeration cycles; Equilibrium and phase transitions, Clausius-Clapeyron equation; Third law of thermodynamics, obtaining low temperatures; Thermodynamics in action; Basic postulates of statistical mechanics, micro/mactostates, distinguishable and indistinguishable particles, Stirling’s approximation, relationship to thermodynamics and entropy; Boltzmann distribution function; equipartition and the partition function; Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac distribution functions, examples of 4He and electrons.


Prof C.S. Adams

15 lectures + 6 workshops in Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms


Required: Optics f2f: from Fourier to Fresnel, C. S. Adams, I. G. Hughes (Clarendon Press). A pdf is available on DUO.

Additional: Optics, Hecht (5th edition). The course is defined by material contained in this book and in particular the material defined in the syllabus below where the numbers refer to the sections in the book


1-2: Introduction: Light as a wave: Maxwell’s wave equation,
superposition principle, E or B, spatial frequency. Intensity. Scalar
approximation. [Optics f2f: Chapter 1]
3-4: Complex notation. Plane waves, spherical/cylindrical waves, and phasors.
Paraxial regime. Lenses. [Optics f2f: Sections 2.1-2.8, and 2.15-2.16]
4-6: Interference – Young’s double slit, Multiple slits/grating. [Optics
f2f: Sections 3.1-3.7]
7-8: Fresnel diffraction. [Optics f2f Sections 5.1-5.2, 8.6-8.9]
9-10: Fraunhofer diffraction. [Optics f2f Sections 9.1-9.8]
11-12: Fresnel reflection, thin films and the Fabry-Perot etalon [Optics f2f:
Sections 2.10-2.14]
13-14: Vector fields: Polarisation, Linear/circular basis, Malus’ law,
Birefringence, Optical activity and the Faraday effect. [Optics f2f: Sections

Condensed Matter Physics

Prof P. D. Hatton

14 lectures + 6 workshops in Epiphany Term


Required: The Oxford Solid State Basics, Steven H. Simon (Oxford, First edition 2013) A very readable text which we will dip in and out of. Particularly useful are Chapters 2-4, 6, and 8-16.

Alternative Option: Introduction to Solid State Physics, C. Kittel (Wiley, 8th Ed. 2004) This book is an alternative but not recommended due to its high cost and use of CGS units, rather than SI

Syllabus: Review of crystal structures and their description: periodic arrays, lattices and bases, Miller indices. Wave Diffraction and the Reciprocal Lattice: Bragg╩╝s Law, scattered wave amplitude, Brillouin zones and structure factor. Crystal binding: Van der Waals solids, Ionic and covalent crystals, metals. Phonons I: Crystal vibrations: Vibrations of a linear chain with one and two atom bases, quantization and phonons. Phonons II: Thermal properties: Phonon heat capacity, Einstein and Debye models, anharmonicity and thermal conductivity. The classical Drude model of electrons: an attempt to explain electrons as classical particles. Free Electron Fermi Gas Model: Energy levels, the Fermi-Dirac distribution, heat capacity, electrical and thermal conductivity of metals, magnetic properties and the failure of the free electron model. Energy Bands: The nearly-free electron model, wave equation of an electron in a periodic potential, Bloch functions, Fermi surfaces, reduced and extended zone schemes. Bending of energy bands close to the Brillouin zone boundary: the effect of a periodic potential, effective masses, electrons and holes. Metals, Semimetals, Semiconductors and Insulators.


3 lectures in Easter Term, one by each lecturer

Teaching methods

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

Workshops: These provide an opportunity to work through and digest the course material by attempting exercises assisted by direct interaction with the workshop leaders. They also provide opportunity for you to obtain further feedback on the self-assessed formative weekly problems. Students will be divided into four groups, each of which will attend one one-hour class every week. The workshops for this module are compulsory.

Mid-term progress tests: Two 40-minute compulsory formative progress tests (weeks 6 and 16).

Problem exercises: See