module specification

CH6059 - Advanced Physical Chemistry (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Advanced Physical Chemistry
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Human Sciences
Total study hours 150
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50%   Interpretation exercises (1500 words)
Unseen Examination 50%   Unseen Examination (1 hour)
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Friday Morning

Module summary

This module looks at aspects of physical chemistry for the life sciences including biochemical thermodynamics, the kinetics of life processes, quantum theory and molecular spectroscopy.

Prior learning requirements

CH4005 and CH5010 or equivalent

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 aims to: extend students’ knowledge of aspects of thermodynamics, Chemical kinetics and Microscopic systems; introduce students how physical chemistry gives quantitative insight into biology and biochemistry and the consequences of a quantum theoretical approach to describing the structures of many- electrons atoms; provide an underpinning theoretical basis for optical (atomic and molecular) spectroscopy; and assist students to develop the application of physical chemistry to a specific biological or biomedical problem, such as pharmacokinetics.

This module aims to provide students with the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring: the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility; decision-making in complex and unpredictable contexts; and, the learning ability needed to undertake appropriate further training of a professional or equivalent nature.


Thermodynamics: Introduction to statistical thermodynamics; The measurement of entropies (The molecular interpretation of the Second and Third laws, Boltzmann relation linking entropy and disorder, residual entropy and exceptions to the third law, Entropy changes accompanying chemical reactions); Gibbs free energy criteria for irreversible processes; Chemical potential, derivation of the Clausius-Clapeyron and Clapeyron equations, application of these equations to chemical equilibrium both qualitatively and quantitatively; Thermodynamics of ion and electron transport (Transport of ions across biological membranes, Applications of standard potentials)

Molecular interactions and Materials: macromolecules and aggregates, Metallic, ionic, and covalent solids and Solid surfaces

Chemical kinetics: The rates of reactions and accounting for the rate laws, The steady state approximation and its application to mechanisms (Elementary reaction, Consecutive reaction, experimental evidence for the existence of free radicals). Diffusion control, Kinetic and thermodynamic control.

Complex biochemical processes: Enzymes (Michaelis-Menten mechanism of enzyme catalysis, the analysis of complex mechanisms, the catalytic efficiency of enzymes, enzyme inhibition), Electron transfer in biological systems (The rates of electron transfer processes).

Microscopic systems and quantization: The principles of quantum theory (Atomic and molecular spectra, Wave – particle duality, The Schrodinger equation), Application of quantum theory (Motion in one dimension, A particle on a ring), Hydrogenic atoms (the permitted energy levels of hydrogenic atoms, Atomic orbitals),  

Spectroscopy: General features of spectroscopy, Photochemistry (The kinetics of decay of excited states, Fluorescence quenching, Fluorescence resonance energy transfer).

Learning and teaching

Teaching and learning is comprised of lectures, tutorials, on-line material and guided study with particular emphasis on solving problems in physical chemistry.

Lectures (30 h) are used to introduce the subject material and are linked to progress tests and an end of module examination.

Tutorials (15 h) are used to reinforce key concepts and to develop problem solving skills through advice, on an individual or group basis as appropriate, on a series of pre-set graded problems.

Students will be expected to review appropriate topics prior to tutorials (5 h) and to work on assigned problems (30 h) as an aid to developing an understanding of the course material.

Students are also expected to review material and develop their understanding of physical concepts independently (60 h).

The module is supported by a website on WebLearn which icludes a number of electronic learning aids. Students would be expected to use the site for assisted study (10 h).

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, a student will be able to:

  1. Calculate the Gibbs energy for an enzyme-catalysed reaction and the solubility of a compound from a knowledge of the behaviour of ions in solution utilising an understanding of the principles ofthermodynamics,;
  2. Make a critical evaluation of entropy changes accompanying chemical reactions using  biochemical thermodynamic methods;
  3. Evaluate the structural differences of selected macromolecules and relate this to their functions;
  4. Analyse the mechanism of a reaction, use this to produce a sequence of elementary steps and provide a mathematical model of the rate of reaction;
  5. Give an assessment of the significance of selected complex biochemical processes;
  6. Derive the energy levels for a given system using quantum theory;
  7. Predict and interpret spectroscopic measurements from the quantisation of energy levels.

Assessment strategy

The module will be assessed by means of an end of module examination (50%, 1.0 hour) which will assess the students’ abilities to think critically, solve problems and communicate the implications of results effectively and by a coursework component (50%, 1500 words). The coursework component will consist of an assigned problem, which will also develop problem solving and communication skills. 

A minimum aggregate mark of 40% will be required to pass the module. If the module is passed on reassessment, then the maximum mark awarded will be 40%.

Component Learning Outcomes
Unseen Examination 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Problem coursework 1,2,3



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