Skip to main content

Unit information: Condensed Matter Physics 311 in 2021/22

Unit name Condensed Matter Physics 311
Unit code PHYS31111
Credit points 10
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Hayden
Open unit status Not open

120 credit points of units at level I/5 in Physics, Physics with Astrophysics, Theoretical Physics, joint honours Mathematics and Physics or Physics and Philosophy, or Chemical Physics programmes.



School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

Lattice Dynamics: Adiabatic approximation. Vibrations of monoatomic and diatomic linear chain. Acoustic and optical modes. Quantization of lattice vibrations (phonons).

Lattice Thermal Properties: Density of states. Einstein and Debye models of the lattice specific heat. Debye temperature. Heat conduction by phonons and electrons.

Review of Fermi-Dirac statistics - spin particles. The Ideal Bose gas- integer spin particles. Bose-Einstein condensation. Application to ultracold atomic gases in traps.

The van der Waals gas. Maxwell's construction and gas-liquid critical point. Concept of a phase transition. Phase diagram of real substances, triple point. A brief introduction to Landau's theory of phase transitions. Order parameters, examples from magnetism and liquid crystals. Concept of critical exponent.


To broaden knowledge of condensed matter physics particularly in the areas of lattice dynamics and phase transitions.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Know the nature of lattice excitations in a crystal and able to calculate simple thermal properties from the excitation spectra. Understand the Bose gas and its relevance to superfluidity in helium. Know the Maxwell construction and its significance for understanding phase transitions and triple points. Understand the gas-liquid and other critical points. Know the significance of order parameters with reference to simple examples in magnetism and liquid crystals. Know the concept of critical exponents.

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through a combination of

  • asynchronous online materials, including narrated presentations and worked examples
  • synchronous group problems classes, workshops, tutorials and/or office hours
  • asynchronous directed individual formative exercises and other exercises
  • guided, structured reading

Assessment Information

Written, timed, open-book examination (100%)


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. PHYS31111).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.