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The University of Southampton

PHYS1013 Energy and Matter

Module Overview

This course introduces the ideas of thermal physics, contrasting the complexity of a world composed of huge numbers of sub-microscopic particles with the simplicity of the thermodynamic laws that govern its large-scale behaviour.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Understand the kinetic theory of matter, the connection between molecular motion, temperature and heat, and the concept of thermodynamic equilibrium.
  • Know the 1st law of thermodynamics, and be able to calculate changes in the internal energy of simple systems
  • Know the 2nd law of thermodynamics, and understand the limitations that it imposes on processes.


Atoms and molecules - Kinetic theory model of the pressure of an ideal gas - Boltzmann factor - Definition of absolute temperature - Equation of state of an ideal gas - Internal energy and the classical equipartition theorem - Heat capacity - Thermal equilibrium and thermal radiation - Thermal conduction, diffusion, viscosity - The mean free path - Interatomic forces - Young’ modulus and bulk modulus - Thermal expansivity - 1st Law of Thermodynamics Work, heat and internal energy. Reversible and irreversible processes - Calculation of reversible work and heat transfer - Ideal gases - Isothermal, isochoric and isobaric processes - Specific heat capacities - CP and CV Heat engines, - Heat pumps and refrigerators - 2nd Law of Thermodynamics - Alternative equivalent statements of the 2nd Law Efficiency of heat engines - Carnot’s Theorem - The concept of entropy from thermodynamic and statistical viewpoints - Irreversible processes - The principle of increase of entropy - Calculation of entropy changes direction of spontaneous processes - Thermodynamic potentials and the concept of free energy.

Learning and Teaching

Wider reading or practice43
Completion of assessment task13
Follow-up work18
Preparation for scheduled sessions18
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

S Blundell and K Blundell (2006). Concepts in Thermal Physics. 

C J Adkins (1984). Equilibrium Thermodynamics. 


Assessment Strategy

Weekly course work will be set and assessed in the normal way, but only the best ‘n-2’ attempts will contribute to the final coursework mark. Here n is the number of course work items issued during that Semester. As an example, if you are set 10 sets of course work across a Semester, the best 8 of those will be counted.In an instance where a student may miss submitting one or two sets of course work, those sets will not be counted. Students will however, still be required to submit Self Certification forms on time for all excused absences, as you may ultimately end up missing 3+ sets of course work through illness, for example. The submitted Self Certification forms may be considered as evidence for potential Special Considerations requests. In the event that a third (or higher) set of course work is missed, students will be required to go through the Special Considerations procedures in order to request mitigation for that set. Please note that documentary evidence will normally be required before these can be considered.


MethodPercentage contribution
Continuous Assessment 30%
Final Assessment  70%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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