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Unit information: Advanced Physical & Theoretical Chemistry in 2018/19

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing and student choice.

Unit name Advanced Physical & Theoretical Chemistry
Unit code CHEM30006
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Chris Russell
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Chemistry
Faculty Faculty of Science


This unit develops the physical and theoretical chemistry given in CHEM 20190 to expand that essential base of physical chemistry into this more advanced level of study. The unit covers the main areas of the subject, covering physical chemistry of molecular systems as well as extended systems (nanoscience and soft matter). Specifically, advanced aspects of molecular structure and spectroscopy will be covered, as well as advanced topics in chemical kinetics e.g. reaction dynamics. For extended systems, the focus will be on molecular organization, and on soft matter and self-assembling systems. Workshops are integral to the unit.

This unit aims to provide a deepening understanding and widening knowledge of the physical and theoretical chemistry of molecular systems, as well as systems beyond the molecule, e.g. nano-scale objects and self-assembled phases. The level is appropriate for a BSc student and will enable progress to even more advanced aspects in a variety of areas of physical chemistry. The implications of these ideas are illustrated with real world examples to set them in context and highlight their relevance in the modern scientific world. The unit aims to explore key aspects of new areas of chemistry which build upon and broaden concepts introduced in the second year.

Intended learning outcomes

  • Advanced understanding of molecular spectroscopy
  • Detailed understanding of the role of energy levels in statistical mechanics
  • The link between potential energy surfaces, reaction dynamics and kinetics
  • The role of energy transfer in gas phase and solution reactions
  • The role of molecular structure and interactions in defining phase behaviour
  • Kinetics of phase separation (e.g. nucleation theory)
  • Properties of single molecules, melts and solutions of polymers
  • Interactions between molecules and self-assembly
  • Micelles, surfactant mesophases, and self-assembly at interfaces

Teaching details

Lectures, workshops (classes of 20 students with two staff members) and masterclasses (interactive seminar sessions of the whole class) and independent study. The Dynamic Laboratory Manual provides important e-learning resource in advance of workshop sessions. Pre-workshop online material will be provided to assist students with the contact workshop.

Assessment Details

Students will assessed by one 3 hour written exam (summative 100%).

Reading and References

E Physical Chemistry, P. W. Atkins, 9th ed. (currently 22 copies in library)

R Reaction Dynamics, M Brouard, Oxford Chemistry Primer # 61 (currently 8 copies in library)

R Molecular Driving Forces Statistical Thermodynamics in Chemistry and Biology, KA Dill and S Bromberg, 2nd edition, Garland Science (currently 11 copies in library)

R Chemical structure and reactivity: an integrated approach / James Keeler, Peter Wothers, OUP, 2008 (currently 7 copies in library).

R An introduction to soft matter - synthetic and biological self-assembling materials, 2nd Ed, Wiley (2007), Ian Hamley (currently 6 copies in library).