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2005/06 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PHYS3440 Statistical Mechanics

10 creditsClass Size: 50

Module manager: Dr P D Olmsted

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2005/06


PHYS2190 (Thermal & Statistical Physics)

This module is approved as an Elective


Upon completion of this module the student should be able to:
- Define and calculate the partition function for simple non-interacting systems.
- Calculate averages of quantities for non-interacting statistical systems.
- Describe and use the microcanonical, canonical, and grand canonical ensembles.
- Use the Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac distribution functions to calculate thermodynamic quantities.
- Describe the second virial coefficient, and the effects of interactions on liquids and gases.
- Describe and use the mean field approximation (e.g. to study magnetic systems).
- Recall the assumptions of Landau theory, and apply Landau theory to simple phase transitions.
- Define the stability criteria of macroscopic thermodynamic systems.

Skills outcomes
Logical thought.
Problem solving.Logical thought.
Problem solving.


1. Statistics and large systems, classical and quantum phase space, ergodicity.
2. Ensembles (microcanonical, canonical, grand canonical), Boltzmann and Gibbs distributions, entropy. Examples from magnets, order-disorder transition, polymers, electron gas and black-body radiation.
3. Interacting systems. Liquids, Debye theory of heat capacity.
4. Phase Transitions.
- Phase coexistence and phase separation.
- Mean field theory: van der Waals gas, Curie-Weiss/Bragg-Williams.
- Symmetry and Landau Theory of Phase Transitions. Examples may be drawn from liquid-gas, magnets, liquid crystals, superconductors, membranes, or crystals.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Lectures: 22 x 1 hour.

Private study

Study: 66 hours;
Self-study examples: 12 hours.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Self-study examples sheets with worked example sheets to follow.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

1 x 2 hour written examination at the end of the semester: 100%.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 19/04/2005


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