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Durham University

Department of Physics

PHYS4261 Foundations of Physics 4B (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


Statistical Physics

Professor S.J. Clark

18 lectures + 7 workshops 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 Part 1

Prof P.D. Hatton

12 lectures + 5 workshops in Epiphany Term


Required: Magnetism in Condensed Matter Physics, S. Blundell (Oxford, New Edition, 2001)

Additional: The Oxford Solid State Basics, Steven H. Simon (Oxford, 2013)


Free and Nearly free electron models, Review of the effect of a periodic potential, formation of energy gaps at Brillouin zone boundaries. Reduced, periodic and extended zone schemes. Magnetic measurements, magnetic susceptibility, Brillouin functions. Diamagnetism and Paramagnetism; Langevin equation; quantum theory of paramagnetism, Hund’s rules, crystal field splitting, paramagnetism of conduction electrons. Ferromagnetism, spin waves and magnons, Domain walls, Antiferromagnetism and Ferrimagnetism. Magnetic interactions.

Condensed Matter Physics Part 2

Dr B.G. Mendis

12 lectures + 5 workshops in Epiphany Term


Required: Introduction to Solid State Physics, C. Kittel (Wiley 8th Edition)

Syllabus: Semiconductor crystals: crystal structures, band gaps, equations of motion, carrier concentrations of intrinsic and extrinsic semiconductors, law of mass action, transport properties, p-n junction. Superconductivity:Meissner effect, London equation, type I and type II superconductors, thermodynamics of superconductors, Landau-Ginzberg theory, Josephson junctions. Dielectrics and ferroelectrics: macroscopic and local electric fields, dielectric constant and polarizilbility, structural phase transitions.


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 not compulsory.

Progress test: One compulsory formative progress test (to be completed over the Christmas break)

Problem exercises: See

Dissertation: Students undertake a dissertation in physics of approximately 1500 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 feedback including the marks awarded for the dissertation) will be returned to students before the end of the Epiphany Term.