The University of Southampton

CHEM2012 Change and Equilibrium

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Lecture component: The aim of this course is to provide a core for future studies in chemistry and allied subjects, in advanced chemical thermodynamics and kinetics. Core mathematical concepts and methods are also taught. Practical component: The laboratory component is designed to offer both consolidation and development of practical expertise and knowledge. In addition to coverage of more advanced techniques and strategy the course will develop expertise in areas essential to all practical work: safe working practices (risk, hazard and control measures); keeping a laboratory record, laboratory report writing (written and verbal communication of results); error estimation and treatment. Students will undertake a series of three experiments, of which the titles below are examples: • Halogenation of Propanone • Hydrogen-Oxygen Explosion • Flash Photolysis – Benzophenone Photochemistry • Numerical Modelling and Kinetics Where the theory underlying the experiments has not previously been covered in lectures it will be detailed in the script, as well as being covered by (in person or videoed) introductory theory lectures. A number of additional e-resources are also available to aid understanding of the background theory, equipment and procedures, and analysis. Each experiment is preceded by a prelaboratory exercise that that will help prepare you for the experimental work. There are separate learning outcomes for each experiment and these are further specified in the practical scripts.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Consolidated understanding of fundamental thermodynamics concepts (enthalpy, entropy and free energy)
  • Thermodynamics: Understand and use thermodynamics entities (enthalpy, entropy and free energy) and basic statistical mechanics to derive details chemical equilibrium & change
  • Kinetics: Ability to analyse and predict the kinetics of reaction sequences and understand the basic dynamics of reactions
  • Ability to utilize the basic thermodynamics and kinetics knowledge in a problem based approach
  • An advanced understanding of the use of mathematical concepts in support of your understanding of concepts in physical chemistry and the ability to solve problems.
  • Evaluate the risks associated with an experiment and understand how to mitigate against those risks;
  • Use a variety of advanced equipment (e.g. Emission, IR and UV Spectrometers) to conduct experiments in Physical Chemistry;
  • Interpret data from an experiment, including applying the results to relevant theoretical models and thoroughly evaluating the associated errors;
  • Present the results of a practical investigation in a concise and clear manner.


• The thermodynamic principles introduced in the first year are reviewed. • Further thermodynamic relationships requiring the appropriate use of calculus are described, principally relating to the thermodynamic definitions and use of entropy. • Statistical Thermodynamics is introduced by a detailed consideration of entropy. The Boltzmann equation for entropy is used as the starting point to develop an understanding of the effect of a given system configuration to the properties of the overall system. • Boltzmann’s equation is developed from the point of view of maximising entropy subject to constraints; this leads to the definition of the partition function. • The link between Boltzmann’s equation, entropy and Gibbs free energy is developed. • The statistical perspective of equilibrium constants is explored using schematic representations of the occupancy of system levels and a specific relationship between equilibrium constant and partition function is identified. • Revision of key kinetic concepts from year 1 (e.g. rate laws and reaction sequences for zero, first and second order reactions) • Steady State Approach to multistep reactions, applied to chain reactions, enzyme reactions, (including derivation of Michaelis-Menten equation) • Reaction Dynamics, Arrhenius equation, and Transition State Theory • Solution vs Gas Phase Reactions: Diffusion • Futher applications of mathematical concepts and methodology to include calculus and statistics. • The laboratory component consists of a series of experiments that will provide the students with the opportunity to enhance the practical and communication skills introduced in the Year 2 course. Emphasis will be placed on awareness of health and safety procedures and a more in depth analysis and interpretation of the data acquired. The practicals themselves will introduce the students to a variety of advanced equipment (e.g. spectrometers, potentiostats) and techniques. The majority of the underlying theory will relate to previous and currently being undertaken lectures on kinetics and spectroscopy. Each experiment is also preceded by a prelaboratory exercise that involves a combination of audio visual and written resources, accessible via Blackboard that will help prepare the students for the experimental work.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, problem-solving tutorials with group working and tutor support Practical chemistry: Prelaboratory e-learning; pre-lab skills lectures/ workshops; practical sessions, supporting demonstrations, group and one-to-one tuition Practical hours includes pre-laboratory e-learning. Preparation for scheduled sessions hours includes other independent study. Workshop hours includes 6 Maths workshops Feedback is provided • In tutorials through assistance with the set work. • In the practicals through assistance from demonstrators and members of staff on duty. • On the reports submitted for the practical excercises. • In-class feedback through use of interactive clicker-based questions. • Through generic feedback following the examinations. • Upon request by viewing of marked examination scripts.

Practical classes and workshops38
Completion of assessment task24
Preparation for scheduled sessions38
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

P W Atkins and J de Paula. Elements of Physical Chemistry. 

Steiner. The Chemistry Maths Book. 

Atkins & de Paula. Physical Chemistry: Thermodynamics, Structure, and Change. 

M J Pilling and P W Seakins. Reaction Kinetics. 

Monk and Munro. Maths for Chemistry. 


Assessment Strategy

If this module is core to the student’s programme a minimum mark of 35% must be obtained for the practical and examination components separately in addition to achieving the 40% module pass mark. If the module is taken as an option (compulsory) or an elective module a minimum mark of 25% must be obtained for the practical and examination components separately.


MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment  (2 hours) 75%
Practical write-ups 25%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment  (2 hours) 75%
Practical write-ups 25%
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