Module Overview

Thermal Physics

Thermal Physics

This section of the module introduces students to the basic principles of thermodynamics and applies these concepts to various physics systems. The concepts covered include: laws of thermodynamics, entropy, introduction to the statistical basis of thermodynamics, ideal and real gases, phase changes, heat engines and maximum work.

Module Code

PHYS 3805

ECTS Credits


*Curricular information is subject to change

Temperature and temperature scales. Absolute zero. Ideal gas law.

Work in reversible and irreversible systems – first law of thermodynamics and the fundamental thermodynamic relation

Second law and entropy – Clausius inequality, Clausius and Kelvin statements of the second law

Heat engines, engine efficiency. Carnot cycle.

Calculations of entropy change for simple systems.

Introduction to the statistical basis of thermodynamics: macrostates, microstates, statistical weight , Postulate of

Equal a Priori Probabilities, and entropy.

The Joule expansion – ideal gas, virial expansion, van der waals gas

The Joule-Thompson expansion – liquefaction of gases

Available and unavailable energy. Maxwell's relations. Thermodynamic potentials,

Difference in principal specific heat capacities of various substances.

Phase transitions, the Clausius-Clapeyron equation.

Thermodynamic applications: Adiabatic demagnetisation, rubber bands, reversible voltaic cells.

Review of properties of matter at low temperatures.

Specific heats of metals. Liquid helium, superfluidity, superconductivity


Problem-solving assignments


On-line videos

Module Content & Assessment
Assessment Breakdown %
Other Assessment(s)100