Thermal and Statistical Physics - PH605

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
6 15 (7.5) PROF P Strange


PH300, PH301, PH502, PH503.





1. Thermodynamics
Review of zeroth, first, second laws. Quasistatic processes. Functions of state. Extensive and intensive properties. Exact and inexact differentials. Concept of entropy. Heat capacities. Thermodynamic potentials: internal energy, enthalpy, Helmholtz and Gibbs functions. The Maxwell relations. Concept of chemical potential. Applications to simple systems. Joule free expansion. Joule-Kelvin effect. Equilibrium conditions. Phase equilibria, Clausius-Clapeyron equation. The third law of thermodynamics and its consequences – inaccessibility of the absolute zero.

2. Statistical Concepts and Statistical Basis of Thermodynamics
Basic statistical concepts. Microscopic and macroscopic descriptions of thermodynamic systems. Statistical basis of Thermodynamics. Boltzmann entropy formula. Temperature and pressure. Statistical properties of molecules in a gas. Basic concepts of probability and probability distributions. Counting the number of ways to place objects in boxes. Distinguishable and indistinguishable objects. Stirling approximation(s). Schottkly defect, Spin 1/2 systems. System of harmonic oscillators. Gibbsian Ensembles. Canonical Ensemble. Gibbs entropy formula. Boltzmann distribution. Partition function. Semi-classical approach. Partition function of a single particle. Partition function of N non-interacting particles. Helmholtz free energy. Pauli paramagnetism. Semi Classical Perfect Gas. Equation of state. Entropy of a monatomic gas, Sackur-Tetrode equation. Density of states. Maxwell velocity distribution. Equipartition of Energy. Heat capacities. Grand Canonical Ensemble.

3. Quantum Statistics
Classical and Quantum Counting of Microstates. Average occupation numbers: Fermi Dirac and Bose Einstein statistics. The Classical Limit. Black Body radiation and perfect photon gas. Planck’s law. Einstein theory of solids. Debye theory of solids.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Lectures (30 hours), revision sessions (2 hours)
Total study time 150 hrs (including private study time).


This is not available as a wild module.

Method of assessment

Coursework 30% including class tests;
Final exam 70%.

Preliminary reading

Thermal physics - Baierlein, Ralph

  • Quantum mechanics - F. Mandl
  • Statistical physics - A. M. Gue´nault

    See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

    See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

  • Learning outcomes

    Knowledge and understanding of physical laws and principles in Thermal and Statistical Physics, and their application to diverse areas of physics.

  • An ability to identify relevant principles and laws when dealing with problems in Thermal and Statistical Physics, and to make approximations necessary to obtain solutions.
  • An ability to solve problems in Thermal and Statistical Physics using appropriate mathematical tools.
    An ability to use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour in Thermal and Statistical Physics.
  • An ability to present and interpret information graphically.
  • An ability to make use of appropriate texts, research-based materials or other learning resources as part of managing their own learning.
  • Problem-solving skills, in the context of both problems with well-defined solutions and open-ended problems. Numeracy is subsumed within this area.
  • Analytical skills – associated with the need to pay attention to detail and to develop an ability to manipulate precise and intricate ideas, to construct logical arguments and to use technical language correctly.

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