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Chemistry 401

CHEM 401:402

Catalog Entry

CHEM 401:402. Physical Chemistry

Three hours lecture; three hours laboratory (4:4)

Prerequisites:  CHEM102; MATH152; PHYS112 or 222 

A study of chemical thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, and quantum chemistry as applied to chemical reactivity, chemical equilibria, and molecular structure.


Detailed Description of Content of the Course

The major topics covered in Chemistry 401 and 402 are those considered to represent the foundations of modern physical chemistry. These topics, with various degrees of emphasis, are common to all recent textbooks written for a two-semester introductory course in physical chemistry.  Physical Chemistry represents the first opportunity for students to use calculus in a mathematics-intensive course. The laboratory portion of the course emphasizes the analysis of experimental data and the presentation of results in technical reports.

 The following topics are covered in the order given: 

CHEM 401

Chemical Kinetics: rate laws, mechanisms, catalysis

Equations of state for real gases

Kinetic theory of gases

PVT behavior in condensed phases

First Law of Thermodynamics, thermochemistry

Second Law of Thermodynamics, free energy, Maxwell relationships

Third Law of Thermodynamics


CHEM 402

Thermodynamics of solutions and phase equilibria

Chemical equilibrium

Quantum theory: introduction, techniques and applications

Atomic structure and atomic spectra

Molecular structure; rotational, vibrational, and electronic spectroscopy 


The first laboratory experiment deals with statistical analysis of experimental data; the remaining experiments involve kinetics, thermodynamics, and spectroscopy.


Detailed Description of Conduct of the Course

The course emphasizes problem solving. A major goal is to provide an environment in which each student can develop an effective means of identifying, analyzing, and attacking problems.  

Homework problems are assigned each week, and the students are expected to spend a substantial amount of time solving them. Success on the tests and the exam is directly related to the amount of effort made in the solution and understanding of homework problems. Problems often require calculus and a major goal of the course is for the student to apply calculus to the solution of chemistry problems. Derivations using calculus are often performed during class time to illustrate how important working equations result from basic principles. 

Students work in groups of three in the laboratory, and the calculation of results from experimental data is usually a group effort.  Students will conduct both introductory experiments and more in-depth experiments requiring use of the literature, advanced instrumentation, new techniques in data acquisition and analysis. Short technical reports will be required for introductory experiments, while more involved experiments and student projects will require a full scientific paper (ACS manuscript format) and may require poster or oral presentations.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

After successful completion of the two-semester physical chemistry sequence, the student will be able to: 

1. understand the basic principles of that vast body of knowledge known as physical chemistry 

2.  appreciate how working equations used in this course and in previous chemistry courses can be derived from basic principles 

3. attack chemical problems in a logical manner utilizing calculus when appropriate  

4.  utilize experimental techniques whereby chemical and physical data can be obtained, analyze data logically, and present experimental results in the appropriate technical report.


Assessment Measures

Assessment of the student's success in the course is based on the grades for three tests, the final exam, assigned homework problems, laboratory reports, and weekly quizzes. The weekly quizzes are announced and cover the previous week's work. The tests, exam, quizzes, and homework are used to assess student outcomes 1., 2., and 3. from part D. Laboratory performance reports are used to assess outcome D4.


Other Course Information



Review and Approval

Revised April, 2009