The University of Southampton

CHEM1033 Fundamentals of Physical Chemistry I

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aim of this course is to provide a core for future studies in chemistry and allied subjects, in the following areas: modern ideas of chemical bonding; the shapes and symmetry of molecules; an introduction to spectroscopy and structure solving; an introduction to basic practical skills including safe working practices (risk, hazard and control measures); laboratory report writing (written and verbal communication of results); error and accuracy Teaching in this course recognises the diversity of our intake in terms of A level syllabus followed and choice of non-Chemistry A level subjects (maths, physics, etc.). Theory component: The aims of the Physical Chemistry part of the module are to provide: • a review of the concepts of enthalpy and entropy. • familiarity with the first and second laws of thermodynamics. • Introduce and apply the concept of Gibbs free energy. • apply thermodynamic concepts to understand the properties of mixures and solution phase equilibria. • further explaination of the concepts of equilibria with emphasis on acid/base equilibria and electrochemistry. • define the terms and determine the enthalphy and entropy change associated with a reaction. • explain the concept of a state function. • explain the concept of spontaneity of a reaction and determine the Gibbs energy change associated with a reaction. • explain and apply the concept of thermodynamic equilibrium. Mathematical Skills for Chemists component: The aims of the mathematics component of the module are to provide an overview and practical skills of working with: • physical units, unit manipulation, order-of-magnitude estimation. • algebraic transformation rules and algebraic expression simplification. • linear and quadratic equations and systems of linear equations. • working with logarithms and exponentials. • linear plots constructed from non-linear expressions. • trigonometric functions and simplification of trigonometric expressions. • differentiation of elementary functions. Practical component: The aim of the practical component of the module is to provide students with the skills that will be needed in their future practical work. Instruction is provided regarding the in the presentation of practical reports, awareness of health and safety procedures, practical skills in the laboratory (and the theory on which they are based) and problem solving in the practical situation. During the first semester some of this instruction will take place in Seminars that precede the practical classes. Students will undertake as series of two experiments, of which the titles below are examples: • Oscillating reactions • Analysis of lemonade Each experiment is also preceded by a pre-laboratory exercise that involves a combination of audio visual resources, accessible via Blackboard, that will help prepare you for the experimental work. A short quiz based on this content is to be completed before starting practical 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:

  • explain aspects of titration curves and calculate the pH for different solution mixtures involving strong and weak acids and bases
  • extract model parameters from experimental data sets.
  • differentiate elementary functions.
  • Evaluate the risks associated with an experiment and understand how to mitigate against those risks.
  • Set up glassware and apparatus to conduct experiments in Physical Chemistry.
  • Interpret data from an experiment, including the construction of appropriate graphs and the evaluation of errors.
  • Present the results of a practical investigation in a concise manner.
  • calculate the equilibrium constants, standard Gibbs energy of reactions, and standard cell potentials for Galvanic cells
  • calculate the ionic strength and mean activity coefficient, account for the effect of ionic strength on equilibrium constant
  • define the terms and determine the enthalphy and entropy change associated with a reaction.
  • explain the concept of a state function.
  • explain the concept of spontaneity of a reaction and determine the Gibbs energy change associated with a reaction.
  • explain and apply the concept of thermodynamic equilibrium.
  • comfortably handle a variety of mathematical expressions encountered in chemical sciences.
  • solve linear and quadratic equations and systems of linear equations.


• Chemical thermodynamics: concepts of enthalphy, entropy and internal energy; first and second laws of thermodynamics; Hess cycles; use of energies of formation; definition and use of heat capacity; Gibbs energies and chemical potential; links to chemical equilbria; solution phase equilbria; activities and activity coefficients; effects of pressure and temperature on equilibrium constants; Le Chatelier’s principle; Henderson Hasselbach equation; exploration of equilibria, with emphasis on those important in aqueous acids and bases; • Mathematical concepts in physical chemistry: Estimates and units; algebraic transformation rules; linear and quadratic equations; graphs and their analysis; exponentials and logarithms; linearization and data fitting; trigonometric transformation; derivatives and differentiation; differentiation of simple functions, and use of the chain rule. • Completion of two practical experiments and associated reports covering a range of topics and skills in physical chemistry including the measurement of materials and properties with accuracy, precision and reproducibility; and the estimation and treatment of errors; understanding the importance of experimental safety and time management.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, problem-solving Seminars with group working and tutor support Practical chemistry: Prelaboratory e-learning; pre-lab skills lectures/ Seminars; practical sessions, supporting demonstrations, group and one-to-one tuition Feedback is provided • In tutorials and workshops 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. • Through the marks achieved in the in class tests. • Through generic feedback following the examinations. • Upon request by viewing of marked examination scripts. Practical and Workshops hours are broken down as follows: 12 hours Practical classes and pre-lab e-learning 20 hours Practical workshops

Practical classes and workshops32
Wider reading or practice11
Follow-up work12
Preparation for scheduled sessions46
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

W G Richards and P R Scott. Energy Levels in Atoms and Molecules. 

James Keeler and Peter Wothers. Chemical Stucture and Reactivity. 

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

E. Steiner. The Chemistry Maths Book. 

Andrew Burrows, John Holman, Andrew Parsons, Gwen Pilling, and Gareth Price. Chemistry3: Introducing inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry. 

C. Lawrence, A. Rodger, R. Compton. Foundations of Physical Chemistry. 

P.A. Cox. Introduction to Quantum Theory and Atomic Structure. 

P. Monk, L.J. Munro. Maths for Chemists. 


Assessment Strategy

The practical (laboratory mark and mathematics exam mark, weighted equally) and theory (examination plus tutorial) components must be passed separately at the module pass mark for the student’s programme, i.e. 40% if core, 25% if compulsory or optional (if compensation is allowed). All absences from practical sessions must be validated and unexcused absences will result in failure of the module.


In-class Test


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (1.5 hours) 65%
Maths examination  (1 hours) 12.5%
Practical write-ups 12.5%
Tutorial sheets 10%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (1.5 hours) 75%
Maths examination  (1 hours) 12.5%
Practical write-ups 12.5%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Repeat year externally: allowed if practical component passed. The practical marks are retained, the theory assessment is exam only. Repeat year internally: note that practical may be reassessed by resubmission of reports or repeated.

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