module specification

CH5010 - Physical Chemistry (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Physical Chemistry
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Human Sciences
Total study hours 300
76 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
224 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
In-Course Test 20%   Progress test (1 h)
Coursework 10%   Data-Handling assignment (750 words)
Coursework 15%   Practical Report 1 (1000 words)
Coursework 15%   Practical Report 2 (1000 words)
Unseen Examination 40%   Unseen Examination (2 h)
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year North Tuesday Morning

Module summary

This module will develop the students’ knowledge and understanding of the major areas of physical chemistry and give an appreciation of the importance of modelling physicochemical processes mathematically in order to be able to predict the behaviour of chemical systems.


Prior learning requirements

CH4005 Concepts in Chemistry

Module aims

The aims of this module are aligned with the qualification descriptors within the Quality Assurance Agency’s, Framework for Higher Education Qualifications.

The module will survey the main branches of physical chemistry: thermodynamics, kinetics, electrochemistry and surface chemistry and provide the theoretical underpinning and practical experience needed to enable the students to develop an understanding of the range of topics covered and the rationale behind the development of these areas.


Thermodynamics: brief review of first law, enthalpy changes and heat capacities, entropy and entropy changes;  Gibbs Free Energy: review of ΔG and ΔS.
Kinetics: Collision Theory: collision cross section of colliding molecules, average relative velocities, Boltzmann energy factor, P-factor to account for steric effects, calculation of theoretical rate constant. Concept of potential energy surfaces and reaction trajectories.   Transition state theory.
Surface Chemistry: the liquid surface, liquid-liquid and gas-liquid interfaces; Gibbs= adsorption isotherm. Surfactants, Langmuir-Blodgett films, membranes.  Colloidal dispersions: survey of different colloid types, solutions of macromolecules and association colloids.
Electrochemistry:  activities and activity coefficients of ions in solution, ionic strength, the Debye-Hückel limiting law and its use for estimating the mean ionic activity coefficient.  The thermodynamics of galvanic cells and how free energy, entropy and enthalpy changes can be determined.

Learning and teaching

An integrated approach will be adopted where the students are introduced simultaneously to the theoretical concepts and the mathematical techniques needed to successfully understand and apply these concepts via lectures (33 h) and tutorials (15 h). Simulated data and practically generated material will be used to allow the students to develop a full understanding of the implications and applications of physical chemistry. The practically generated material will be obtained in laboratory sessions (36 h) which will provide the students with experimental verification of the theoretical work and allow them to develop practical skills in measurement of a range of physical and chemical parameters. Worksheets will be used to direct student learning (36 h) and preparatory exercises for the lab work (16 h) will be used to ensure students are familiar with the background of the work prior to the lab sessions. There will be a VLE for the module and students will be expected to spend some time (30 h) using material from this resource.


82 h directed study (27.33%) + 142 h private study (47.33%)

Learning outcomes

On completion of the module, a student should be able to:

  1. Describe the basis of the theories underpinning the various branches of physical chemistry covered;
  2. Predict the outcome of an experiment based on a specific model for system behaviour;
  3. Perform experimental procedures correctly and record experimental data accurately;
  4. Display experimental data appropriately in tabular and graphical forms;
  5. Identify errors in experimental data and interpret experimental results in the light of relevant theory;
  6. Calculate the value of specified chemical variables and critically review the results;
  7. Understand and analyse the limitations of individual models.

Assessment strategy

The module will be assessed by a variety of mechanisms. Time constrained assessments, a data-handling assignment and two practical reports.

There will be two time constrained assessments. The first will be a progress test (1 h) which will assess the students’ ability to describe the theory and to perform calculations and will focus on the kinetics section of the course. The test will provide both formative and summative assessment. The second time-constrained assessment will be the final examination (2 h) will be used to assess the students’ knowledge of theory, ability to perform calculations, identify error sources, display data and comment on the validity of models.  The exam will focus on the surface chemistry and electrochemistry section of the course along with selected material from the practical course.

The data-handling assignment will assess the ability to handle and display data, perform calculations and comment on the significance of results. This will focus on the thermodynamics section of the course. This will provide both formative and summative assessment.

The practical reports may be concerned with any aspect of the material on the practical course and will require the students to research the background for a particular model of system behaviour, measure and present experimental data, comment on any errors and discuss the success of the model in light of the experimental results. The practical reports will provide an opportunity for formative and summative assessment.

Assignment Learning Outcomes
Progress Test                                                1, 6
Data Handling Exercise                              2, 3, 4, 7
 Practical Report 1 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Practical Report 2 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Exam 1, 2, 4, 6, 7




Atkins, P., andDe Paula, J. (2010) Physical Chemistry, 9th edition, Oxford University Press
Atkins, P., andDe Paula, J. (2011) Physical Chemistry for the Life Sciences, 2ndEdn, Oxford.
Chang, R. (2000) Physical Chemistry for the Chemical and Biological Sciences, 3rdEdn. University Sciences Books
Silbey, RJ., Alberty, RA., and Bawendi, MG. (2204) Physical Chemistry, 4th Edn, Wiley