Energy and Change

Unit code: CHEM10212
Credit Rating: 10
Unit level: Level 1
Teaching period(s): Semester 2
Offered by School of Chemistry
Available as a free choice unit?: N



Additional Requirements

  • Semester 1 CHEM10520 maths components (Compulsory)
  • A-level content on kinetics, thermodynamics, reaction mechanisms (Recommended)


Course unit aims:

  • Provide an introduction to the physical principles underlying all chemical phenomena
  • Lay the foundations of a knowledge and understanding of physical chemistry which will permit rapid progress to advanced topics in subsequent years of the course
  • Introduce and develop those aspects of physical chemistry related to quantum mechanical models of spectroscopy and electronic structure, and the thermodynamic and kinetic governance of chemical processes


Reflection on prior learning

Dr Jonathan Agger, 2 lectures

  • Revision of internal energy and the 1st Law: heat and work; heat capacity
  • Simple calculations using Hess’s law

2nd Law thermodynamics

Dr Jonathan Agger, 4 lectures

  • The Second Law: entropy and spontaneous processes: the Gibbs energy
  • The chemical potential as a driving force in chemical reactions
  • Thermodynamic descriptions of simple 1st–order phase changes
  • Equilibrium constants – the relationship between DG and K
  • Applications to acid/base equilibria

Reaction kinetics

Professor Jon Waltho, 6 lectures

  • Elementary reactions
  • Rate laws, order of reaction
  • First, second and zeroth orders
  • Parallel and consecutive reactions
  • Rate determining step
  • The steady state approximation
  • Temperature dependence of reaction rates
  • The Arrhenius equation and the activation energy

Introduction to quantum mechanics

Professor Nik Kaltsoyannis, 6 lectures

  • Wave-particle duality
  • Wavefunctions
  • Probability interpretation of wavefunction
  • Observables and operators, esp. the Hamiltonian
  • Eigenvalue equations
  • The Schrödinger Equation
  • Four exact solutions to the Schrodinger Equation:
    • Particle in a box model, and its relation to electronic energy levels
    • Particle on a ring
    • Particle on a sphere and the rigid rotor
    • The simple harmonic oscillator

Molecular spectroscopy

Professor Gareth Morris, 6 lectures

  • The Born-Oppenheimer approximation and its use to factorise wavefunctions
  • Transitions between energy levels – quantum mechanical selection rules
  • Quantisation of energy levels for nuclear motion
  • Pure rotational spectroscopy
  • The harmonic oscillator model for vibrations
  • Examples of rotational and vibrational absorption spectra for small molecules

Teaching and learning methods

  •  2 + 4 + 6 + 6 + 6 lectures. Each student has 3 tutorials with his/her Physical Chemistry tutor to offer guidance/feedback during the course programme. Office hours of the lecturers of this course.

Learning outcomes

Students should be able to ...

  • Discuss thermodynamic state functions and their influence on and control of chemical processes
  • Discuss the notions of rate laws, rate constants, reaction order, half-lives and the Arrhenius equation in chemical kinetics
  • Discuss the principles and concepts of quantum mechanics, and its application to exact model systems of relevance to spectroscopy and electronic structure
  • Discuss the physical origins and quantum mechanical models of UV/Vis, infrared and microwave spectroscopies

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Develop the following transferable skills: analytical, investigative, problem solving, numeracy and mathematics
  • Understand physical principles underlying most chemical phenomena
  • Handle mathematical models of the physical world
  • Understand and manipulate units

Assessment methods

  • Written exam - 100%

Recommended reading

  • Physical Chemistry, Atkins, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-850102-1
  • Chemical Structure & Reactivity, Keeler and Wothers, OUP, ISBN 978-0199289301

Book chapters, review articles, and further references available through the library online will be provided during the course.

Feedback methods

Tutorials will provide a means for student worked examples to be marked and discussed providing feedback on performance and understanding.

In addition, for the quantum chemistry section a workshop will be run providing feedback to students.

Study hours

  • Lectures - 24 hours
  • Tutorials - 3 hours
  • Independent study hours - 73 hours

Teaching staff

Jonathan Agger - Unit coordinator

Gareth Morris - Unit coordinator

Nikolas Kaltsoyannis - Unit coordinator

Jonathan Waltho - Unit coordinator

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