CHEM20120 Physical Chemistry (level 2)

Academic Year 2024/2025

This module aims to provide students with a critical understanding of the fundamentals and mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics and with a working knowledge of the quantum mechanical nature of atoms and molecules. The module has two parts, as follows:

The first part presents the key principles and techniques of quantum theory along with applications of the theory to relevant model systems. This knowledge is then employed to describe (i) the internal structures of hydrogen-like and many-electron atoms, (ii) how atoms interact with light, and (iii) why atomic properties exhibit periodic trends.

The second part considers the origin of the strengths, numbers, and three-dimensional arrangement of chemical bonds between atoms. The electronic structure of molecules is analyzed in terms of two quantum mechanical theories, namely, valence bond theory and molecular orbital theory.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Learning Outcomes
On completion of the module, students will be able to:
• Understand the origins of quantum mechanics in terms of energy quantisation and wave-particle duality
• Describe the dynamics of microscopic systems in terms of the Schrödinger equation and the Born interpretation of the wavefunction
• Use key principles of quantum mechanics to determine the information in a wavefunction and to describe the nature and ramifications of the uncertainty principle
• Apply quantum mechanics to the description of translational motion, confinement (particle-in-a-box), tunneling, rotational motion (particle-on-a-ring and particle-on-a-sphere) and vibrational motion (harmonic oscillator)
• Describe the property of particle spin
• Understand the structure of hydrogenic atoms in terms of quantum mechanics
• Define the four quantum numbers (n, l, ml, and ms) and recognise their relationship to electronic structure
• Describe the permitted energies of hydrogenic atoms and the shapes of atomic orbitals
• Describe the spectroscopic transitions and selection rules of hydrogenic atoms
• Understand the structure of many-electron atoms in terms of quantum mechanics
• Describe the orbital approximation and the Pauli principle
• Understand the effects of penetration, shielding, and the Aufbau principle on the atomic subshell energies and electron configurations of many-electron atoms
• Rationalise Periodic trends in some atomic properties
• Describe the importance of orbitals in theories of chemical bonding
• Understand the valence bond theory of diatomic and polyatomic molecules
• Identify the hybridisation of an atom in a molecule or ion
• Understand molecular orbital theory in terms of linear combinations of atomic orbitals
• Understand the differences between bonding and anti-bonding molecular orbitals and write the molecular orbital configurations for simple diatomic molecules
• Understand the principles and practice of atomic and molecular spectroscopy.

Indicative Module Content:

The classroom component is comprised of seven parts as follows:
Part 1: The Concept of Quantisation
Introduction, Classical Mechanics, Particle in 1-D, Hamiltonian, Waves, Light as a Wave Phenomenon, Electromagnetic Radiation, Blackbody Radiation, Planck's Equation, Atomic Emission Spectra, Bohr Model of H Atom
Part 2: From Quantisation to Wave-Particle Duality
Photoelectric Effect, de Broglie Relation
Part 3: Impact of Quantisation & Wave-Particle Duality – The Dynamics of Microscopic Systems
Time-independent Schrodinger Equation in 1-D, Born's Interpretation of the Wavefunction, Normalisation, Origins of Quantisation, Particle Moving in 1-D – Probability Density Examples, Operators, Eigenvalues, Eigenfunctions, Observables, Eigenvalue Equations, Setting up an Operator and Using it to Determine the Value of an Observable, Curvature of Wavefunction, Hermitian Operators, Superpositions/Linear Combinations of Wavefunctions, Measurements, Expectation Values, Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, Complementary Observables
Part 4: Quantum Mechanics – Techniques & Applications
Particle in a Box in 1-D and in 2-D, Separation of Variables, Degeneracy, Particle in a Well of Finite Depth, Tunneling, Simple Harmonic Oscillator, A Particle on a Ring, A Particle on a Sphere, Quantisation of Space, Spin
Part 5: The Electronic Structure of the Hydrogen Atom
Hamiltonian and Schrodinger Equation for H Atom, Separation of Variables, Radial Wave Equation, Radial Wavefunctions and Energies, Link to H Atom Spectrum and Ionisation Energy, Angular Wave Equation, Combining Radial and Angular Wavefunctions, Quantum Numbers, Shells, Sub-shells, Orbitals, Radial Distribution Functions, Role of Selection Rules in H Atom Spectra
Part 6: The Electronic Structure of Many-Electron Atoms
Orbital Approximation, Pauli Exclusion Principle, Order of Orbitals, Shielding, Penetration, Aufbau Principle, Hund’s Rule, Chemical Periodicity of Elements, Electron Configurations of Ions, Paramagnetism, Diamagnetism, Ionisation Energies of Elements, Quantum Defects, Rydberg States
Part 7: Orbitals & Theories of Chemical Bonding
Lewis Model of Covalent Bonding, Bond Order, Length and Strength, Valence Bond Model of Covalent Bonding, Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion, Orbital Hybridisation, Cis-trans Isomerism, Resonance, Molecular Orbital Model of Covalent Bonding, Bonding and Anti-bonding Molecular Orbitals, Bond Order, Homonuclear Diatomic Molecules, Sigma and Pi Molecular Orbitals, Paramagnetism of Dioxygen, Heteronuclear Diatomic Molecules, Polyatomic Molecules, Nonbonding Molecular Orbitals, Reconsidering Resonance

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours






Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
In terms of teaching and learning methods, a combination of lecture-based teaching, laboratory-based practical experimentation, continuous assessment (problem-based learning), and self-study/reflective learning will be used. Key concepts and tools will be presented in lectures, while regular practical laboratories and workshops, as well as informal self-study sessions, will lead the students to applying this knowledge to real problems relevant to chemistry. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Requirements:

Students registering for this module should have completed CHEM00010 Introductory Chemistry OR achieved a minimum grade of C in Leaving Certificate Honours Chemistry or equivalent AND have completed CHEM20080 Basis of Physical Chemistry.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Exam (In-person): End-of-trimester in-person written exam n/a Graded No


Practical Skills Assessment: Laboratory practical component based on specified experiments n/a Graded No


Assignment(Including Essay): Four homeworks/problem sheets n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

There will be four assignments based on problem solving with a particular emphasis on numerical skills development Tutor will provide in-person tutorials to describe aim of each question, relevance to lecture material, approach to solution, and worked solution Assignment questions will bridge between the in-class lecture material, the learning outcomes, and the end-of-trimester exam