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Unit information: Classical Physics II: Electromagnetism and Waves 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 Classical Physics II: Electromagnetism and Waves
Unit code PHYS20020
Credit points 10
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Leinhardt
Open unit status Not open

PHYS10005, PHYS10006 or equivalent.


Classical Physics I: Thermal Physics, Oscillations and Mechanics

School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science


Classical Physics comprises much of the core of physics, built on the foundations developed in the 17th to 19th centuries and underpinning all of ‘modern’ physics. This unit builds on the foundations from level C/4 in the areas of electromagnetic fields and waves. Maxwell's equations in vacuo and in simple solids form the basis of a discussion of fields, forces and energy for general charge and current configurations. Wave solutions of Maxwell’s equations are studied, relating the electromagnetic and optical properties of materials. General wave phenomena including interference and diffraction are investigated, along with practical applications of these effects.


  • to introduce students to a core of classical physics including electromagnetic fields and waves, wave interference and diffraction.

Intended learning outcomes

Students will:

  • gain an appreciation of the broad thrust of classical physics and its wide applicability
  • know Maxwell's equations. Be able to deduce from them the equations relevant to simple electrostatic cases and be able to solve problems in these cases
  • be able to calculate the magnetic field from currents flowing in simple geometries
  • understand the macroscopic descriptions of fields in conductors, dielectric materials and magnetic materials
  • understand the description and properties of plane electromagnetic waves, in vacuum and in materials
  • understand reflection and transmission of waves at interfaces
  • explain features of the behaviour of fields in materials in terms of semi-classical microscopic models
  • be familiar with the phenomena of interference and diffraction, and the principles of operation and practical uses of common types of interferometer.

Teaching details

Lectures, problems classes.

Assessment Details

Written examination (100%).

Reading and References

  • Griffiths - Introduction to Electrodynamics, Fourth edition 2014 (Pearson) - Electromagnetism
  • Duffin - Electricity and Magnetism - highly recommended despite being out of print, but this book is available second hand or in the university library
  • Grant and Phillips - Electromagnetism
  • Hecht - Optics