Physics 330

PHYS 330

Catalog Entry

PHYS 330. Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics
Three hours lecture (3).

Prerequisite: PHYS 112 or 222, and MATH 152

Topics in thermal physics are treated using both classical thermodynamics and statistical methods. Topics include temperature, heat, work, entropy, ideal gases, phase transitions, kinetic theory.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

This is an intermediate-level physics course. Topics will be treated with some depth. The students' math skills, including calculus, are expected to be good. Statistical methods will be introduced starting with fundamentals and with the specific applications to thermal physics firmly in mind.

The topics covered are:


1. Heat and temperature
2. Thermodynamic definition of work
3. First law of thermodynamics, applications
4. Entropy and the second law of thermodynamics
5. Statistical definition of entropy
6. Ensemble averages
7. The Boltzmann factor and the partition function
8. Helmholtz free energy
9. Grand canonical ensemble, chemical potential, Gibbs factor
10. Ideal gases
11. Gibbs free energy, phase transitions, Clausius-Clapeyron equation
12. Kinetic theory, Maxwell velocity distribution, mean free path, transport processes


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

This is primarily a theory course. Lecture periods are conducted in a traditional lecture/examples of worked problems/discussion format. However, real-world applications are emphasized where possible. In the statistical discussions, a considerable amount of modeling is used. If possible, models are chosen with which the student can readily identify through ordinary experiences.


Goals and Objectives of Course

1. Students will learn the foundations of thermodynamics, emphasizing its macroscopic approach, the generality of the results it obtains, but also its limitations.
2. Students will learn the foundations of statistical mechanics, emphasizing its microscopic (atomic theory) approach, its probabilistic methods, and the wide variety of its applications.
3. Students will learn the relationship between these two approaches, macroscopic and microscopic; they will understand how the generality of the first approach is complemented by the deeper understanding provided by the second approach.
4. Since these goals are to be implemented quantitatively, students will continue to strengthen problem-solving skills.


Assessment Measures

In physics, students' understanding of ideas is measured through their ability to apply those ideas in quantitative problems. In PHYS 330, this is gauged by their performance on homework, tests, and the final exam.


Other Course Information



September 2001 Reviewed by Walter S. Jaronski, Chair