The University of Southampton

CHEM1034 Fundamentals of Physical Chemistry II

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 aspects of Physical Chemistry as specified below, coverage of the key mathematical concepts and skills required to succeed in physical chemistry, and 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 first half of the Physical Chemistry part of the module are to provide: • an understanding of simple chemical kinetics including zero, first, and second order rate laws. • an understanding of the concept of activation energy and its effects on the rates of chemical reactions. • the tools to derive the rate law for simple reaction mechanisms • an understanding of the concept of steady state, steady state approximation and its use in deriving the rate law for complex mechanisms such as that found in unimolecular reactions. The aims of the second half of the Physical Chemistry part of the module are to provide: • an introduction to quantisation of energy levels and degeneracy using the particle in a 1D and 2D box as examples. • an overview of the interaction of radiation with matter, and a basic understanding of absorption, emission and scattering processes. • coverage of the basic principles of the major spectroscopies, including ultraviolet & visible spectroscopy, infrared and microwave spectroscopies 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: • differentiation of composite functions. • integrals and integration of elementary functions. • introduction to matrices and complex number arithmetic. After studying this part of the module, students should be able to: • integrate most functions encountered in chemical practice. • solve separable first-order ordinary differential equations • complete operations involving matricies, including the determinant and transpose • understand complex numbers and their use. and thus will be well prepared mathematically for the forthcoming courses in quantum theory, thermodynamics and spectroscopy. 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 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 semester some of this instruction will take place in Seminars that precede the practical classes. Students will undertake a series of two experiments, of which the titles below are examples: • Remote experiments • Demonstration chemistry • Introduction to electrochemistry • Iodine clock 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:

  • determine rate constants and half-life for 0, 1st and 2nd order reactions from experimental datasets
  • apply selection rules to predict observed spectroscopic transitions
  • understand and apply the Boltzman distribution and its effect on the observed spectra
  • integrate most functions encountered in chemical practice.
  • solve separable first-order ordinary differential equations.
  • complete operations involving matrices, including the determinant and transpose
  • understand complex numbers and their use.
  • 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.
  • write the rate of reaction taking into account the stoichiometry of all species, express a rate law for elementary processes
  • determine the order of reactions with respect to given species by applying the initial rate method and isolation method, express the rate law from the orders with respect to the species involved
  • draw an energy versus reaction coordinate diagram, predict the dependence of rate constants on temperature, calculate the activation energy and preexponential factors
  • apply the steady state approximation and derive the rate law of a complex mechanism such as that found in unimolecular reactions.
  • explain the concept of a particle in a box and the solutions to the Schrödinger equation for particles in 1D, 2D and 3D boxes
  • explain the concept of degeneracy
  • sketch energy level diagrams corresponding to spectroscopic transitions for the various spectroscopic methods covered
  • calculate fundamental properties of molecules using spectroscopic data and similarly predict spectroscopic features given the fundamental properties


• Kinetics: Rate expressions and rate laws for simple zero, first, and second order reactions; the concept of activation energy and its effect on the rates of chemical reactions • Introductory Quatum Mechanics: the Schrödinger equation; particle in a 1D and 2D box; degeneracy. • Radiation and Matter: The Electromagnetic Spectrum again; Absorption; Stimulated and spontaneous emission; Principle of the Laser; Raman and Rayleigh scattering; Types of spectroscopy. • Ultraviolet and visible spectroscopy: Beer-Lambert law; Absorption/emission processes; Jablonski diagrams; Fluorescence and Phosphorescence • Infrared and microwave spectroscopy: Vibrational quantum states; Selection rules for IR; Modes of oscillation; Rotation and moment of inertia; Linear rotor QM states; Rotational constant; Selection rules for microwave; PQR rotation vibration spectra; Rotational and vibrational Raman. • Mathematical concepts in physical chemistry • Completion of two practical experiments and associated reports covering a range of topics and skills that enable the understanding of the physical chemistry that underpins the reactivity of matter; reinforce key skills already introduced; 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 Practical classes and workshops are broken down as follows: 12 hours - Practical classes and pre-laboratory e-learning 20 hours - Practical workshops

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

Resources & Reading list

E. Steiner (2008). The Chemistry Maths Book. 

C.N. Banwell and E. McCash (1994). Fundamentals of Molecular Spectroscopy. 

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

P. Monk, L.J. Munro (2010). Maths for Chemists. 

James Keeler and Peter Wothers (2008). Chemical Stucture and Reactivity. 

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

S. Duckett, B. Gilbert. Foundations of Spectroscopy. 

Andrew Burrows, John Holman, Andrew Parsons, Gwen Pilling, and Gareth Price (2009). Chemistry3: Introducing inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry. 

P W Atkins and J. de Paula (2013). Elements of Physical Chemistry. 


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. Unexcused absences will result in failure of the module.




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


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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