module specification

CY5010 - Physical Chemistry (2018/19)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2018/19
Module title Physical Chemistry
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Human Sciences
Total study hours 300
60 hours Assessment Preparation / Delivery
165 hours Guided independent study
75 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Unseen Examination 20%   Progress test
Coursework 10%   Data handling assignment
Coursework 15%   Practical report 1
Coursework 15%   Practical report 2
Unseen Examination 40%   Unseen written exam
Running in 2018/19
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. The module will examine key theories and applications of thermodynamics, kinetics, surface chemistry and electrochemistry.

Prior learning requirements

CY4005, CY4056


A review of the laws of thermodynamics, enthalpy changes and heat capacities. Work and heat calculations for the expansion of an ideal gas under isothermal and adiabatic conditions. Variation of heat capacities with temperature, equipartition of energy. Statistical thermodynamics related to entropy changes and residual entropy, the Carnot cycle. Gibbs Free Energy and its link to Trouton’s rule and equilibrium constants. Phase equilibria and phase diagrams of multi-components systems, azeotropes and eutectics, the lever rule, fractional distillation.

The Arrhenius equation. Collision theory - collision cross sections of colliding molecules, average relative velocities, Boltzmann energy factor, P-factor to account for steric effects. Potential energy surfaces and reaction trajectories. Transition state theory. Complex reactions and the calculation of theoretical rate constants using the steady state approximation. Introduction to catalytic kinetics and the derivation of the Michaelis-Menten rate equation.

Surface Chemistry
The liquid surface, liquid-liquid and gas-liquid interfaces. Surface tension, surfactants, surface excess, colloidal dispersions and macromolecules. Adsorption mechanisms and isotherms - Gibbs adsorption isotherm and the Langmuir, Freundlich, Temkin and BET isotherms.

Revision of cell potentials and reference cells. The thermodynamics of galvanic cells and how free energy, entropy and enthalpy changes can be determined. Calculating standard electrode potentials using the Nernst equation. Conductance, activities and ionic activity coefficients of ions in solution, ionic strength, the Debye-Hückel limiting law and its use for estimating the mean ionic activity coefficient. Solubility equilibria of sparingly soluble salts. LO1,LO2,LO3,LO4,LO5,LO6,LO7

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Students will be introduced simultaneously to the theoretical concepts and the mathematical techniques needed to successfully understand and apply these concepts via lectures (24 h) and tutorials (12 h). A problem-solving workshop (3 h) will support the lectures and help prepare students for assessments. 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 (32 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. Additional resources will be used to direct student learning and preparatory exercises for the laboratory work (16 h) will be used to ensure students are familiar with the background theory and methodologies prior to the practical sessions. Further exam preparation will be facilitated through two revision sessions (4 h). There will also be weekly drop-in sessions, of one hour duration, which students can make use of in order to consolidate their understanding of the subject matter.

Learning outcomes

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 progress test (1 h) will examine the students’ ability to describe the theory and to perform calculations and will focus on the kinetics and surface chemistry section of the course. The data-handling assignment (750 words) 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. The practical reports (1000 words each) 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 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 thermodynamics and electrochemistry section of the course. Students must pass with an overall mark of 40%.


Core text: Atkins, P., De Paula, J. and Keeler, J. (2017) Physical Chemistry, 11th Edition, Oxford University Press

Other text: Atkins, P., and De Paula, J. (2011) Physical Chemistry for the Life Sciences, 2nd Edition, Oxford
Chang, R. and Thoman Jr., J.W. (2014) Physical Chemistry for the Chemical Sciences, University Sciences Books
Silbey, RJ., Alberty, RA., and Bawendi, MG. (2004) Physical Chemistry, 4th Edition, Wiley
Dogge, G., Cockett, M. (2012) Maths for Chemists: 2nd Edition, Royal Society of Chemistry Publishing

Websites: Specific links to websites will be given on Weblearn including links from

Interactive digital resources: Preparation for practical classes and written practical reports will be supported by interactive LearnSci resources embedded into WebLearn.