Thermodynamics & Condensed Matter Physics

University of Queensland

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Thermodynamics & Condensed Matter Physics

  • Host University

    University of Queensland

  • Location

    Brisbane, Australia

  • Area of Study


  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Prerequisites

    Prerequisite: MATH1051 + PHYS1001
    Assumed background
    PHYS2020 builds on a variety of concepts and skills from first year courses:
    Thermal concepts
    • Familiarity with basic thermal phenomena and concepts, including:
    • temperature scales K and ?C
    • heat transfer by conduction, radiation, convection
    • force, work and energy
    • ideal gas, pressure
    • heat capacity
    • entropy: basic idea (disorder) and tendency to increase in an isolated system
    • phase changes: boiling, freezing points, latent heat
    • bulk properties of matter: thermal expansion, Young?s modulus
    Mathematical Skills
    • basic differentiation and integration
    • finding extrema of a function
    • integration as area under a curve
    • visualise and sketch simple functions
    • visualise a function of 2 variables (eg contour plot)
    • the idea of a path-dependent integral
    • logarithms, exponentials and trigonometric functions
    • definite vs indefinite integrals
    • Taylor series of elementary functions
    Problem solving and analysis
    • convert between commonly used units
    • keep track of units in a calculation
    • use simple checks to assess whether an answer makes sense (eg dimensions, orders-of-magnitude, limiting behaviours, consistency with fundamental principles and axioms)
    Experimental Skills
    • formulating and testing hypotheses
    • estimation and analysis of uncertainties
    • plotting data
    • significant figures
    General Physics
    The concepts and techniques of thermodynamics and condensed matter physics have application in a wide variety of areas, many of which are explored in the courses. Familiarity with some of these areas is helpful:
    • mechanics: work and potential energy, gravitational potential energy
    • wave optics: basic characteristics of light ? wavelengths/frequency.
    • magnetism: magnetic dipoles, magnetization, inductors, Faraday's law
    • electricity: electric potential, current, resistance, power dissipation, capacitance
    • chemistry: chemical equation with stoichiometric coefficients, structure of common compounds (eg He, N2, O2, CO2, H2O)

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • Host University Units

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Course Description
    Theoretical understanding of general properties of macroscopic sized material systems that apply irrespective of the detailed behaviour of microscopic particles constituting the system. Understanding of matter in condensed (liquid or solid) states.
    Course Introduction
    Thermodynamics is the science of the transformation of energy and matter. It deals with foundational principles involving energy and entropy, and it provides powerful methods to work out the general consequences of these principles that apply to any system, regardless of the microscopic detail. Applications include: states of matter, chemical reactions, energy efficiency, quantum information, physiology, astrophysics and environmental science.
    Thermodynamics sets limits on permissible physical processes and it establishes relationships between apparently unrelated properties. Thermodynamics provides an example within physics itself of a field of study that is independent of, though consistent with, a more fundamental field of knowledge. Thermodynamic laws can be interpreted in terms of statistical mechanics, which involves a statistical physics description of the system allowing for the details of the microscopic constituents.
    Condensed matter physics is concerned with understanding the nature of different phases of matter, including not just solids and liquids but also magnets, superfluids, liquid crystals, polymers, and amorphous solids. Understanding these different phases and transitions between them is based on thermodynamics but ultimately requires a thorough knowledge of quantum physics and statistical mechanics. Many of the materials first studied by condensed matter physicists are now the basis of modern technology. Common examples include crystalline silicon in computer chips, superconductors in hospital magnetic imaging machines, magnetic multilayers in computer memories, and liquid crystals in digital displays. This course will introduce students to the diverse phases of matter and their basic physical properties.
    The course provides part of a comprehensive, complete and coherent program of education in Physics intended for students aiming to become professional physicists. It is a compulsory subject for a major in Physics.
    The course is also suitable for non-majors in physics interested in the background theory behind applications of thermodynamics in technology or students wishing to develop a basic understanding of the nature and behaviour of thermodynamic systems and condensed matter. In particular the course would be useful to students in engineering, chemistry and biochemistry.
    Learning Objectives
    After successfully completing this course you should be able to:
    • Be able to state in a precise manner the four laws of thermodynamics.
    • Understand that in open systems at equilibrium free energy is minimised.
    • Have a physical understanding of the key concepts of thermodynamic equilibrium, entropy, temperature, and internal energy.
    • To understand the physical interpretation of the Helmholtz free energy, Gibbs free energy, and the chemical potential. To be able to formulate the second law in terms of free energy.
    • To have an appreciation of the power of thermodynamics to understand a diverse range of systems relevant to physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, and earth sciences.
    • To be able to solve problems involving thermodynamic systems and to obtain quantitative answers.
    • Develop a thermodynamic understanding of important systems such as engines, refrigerators, ideal and non ideal gases and solutions, mixtures, and chemical reactions
    • To have a feel for order of magnitude estimates of thermodynamic quantities in typical systems and to be able to perform 'back of the envelope' calculations.
    • Develop an understanding of some basic concepts of condensed matter physics such as symmetry breaking and order parameters.
    • To appreciate the diverse range of phases of matter that exist and how thermodynamics can describe transitions between them.
    • To be able understand and investigate thermodynamic phenomena in a laboratory context.
    Class Contact
    2 Lecture hours, 1 Tutorial hour, 3 Practical or Laboratory hours
    Assessment Summary
    • Mid Semester: 10-20%
    • Final: 40-50%
    Progressive Assessment
    • Laboratory Report: 20%
    • Problem Set(s): 20%
    Learning Participation
    • Short Quiz: Hurdle requirement of 70% satisfactory completion
    • Problem Solution: Hurdle requirement of 70% satisfactory completion

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.

Some courses may require additional fees.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.