CHEM30310 Soft Matter & Interfacial Chemistry

Academic Year 2024/2025

The first part of the module module covers the key topics of colloid and surface chemistry and provides the fundamental principles of supramolecular architecture and molecular self-assembly. It includes the following subjects: modern laboratory techniques for analysis of molecular assemblies, polymers and polymer nano-assemblies, gels, dispersions and emulsions; hydrophobic effects and hydrophobic interactions, surfactant self-assemblies (micelles and bilayer membranes, phase transitions in bilayer membranes); the role of surface tension in stability of nano-assemblies; Brownian motion; nano-encapsulation, delivery systems and other nano-formulations in biotechnology, food, pharmaceutical and other industries.
In the second part, the factors that affect the rates of chemical reactions are reviewed and specific examples of reaction mechanisms, including unimolecular, polymerization and photochemical reactions, are discussed. The ability to determine the expressions for the rate laws of complex reactions will be considered in detail. Both Steady State and pre-equilibrium approaches will be considered. Non-chain reactions will be introduced and expanded to the treatment of radical reactions, linear and branched chain reactions will be explored including explosions, as well as the mechanisms of reversible reactions. Unimolecular reactions and third body collisions will also be examined. Specific examples of atmospheric photochemistry and radical reactions of ozone will be reviewed. The kinetics of excited state processes will be considered in terms of fluorescence and the Stern Volmer treatment will be considered. The importance of collision theory will be introduced. Experimental methods for kinetic studies will be reviewed.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of the course, students will:
Know the fundamental principles of supramolecular design;
Know the structural attributes of polymers, emulsions, suspensions, gels, and key factors responsible for their stability;
Understand the molecular origin of surface tension and its role in the structure and behavior of films and dispersions;
Understand the key principles and limitations of modern laboratory techniques for analysis of surface films, nano, and micro molecular assemblies;
Understand the energetics of self-assembly processes and the key intermolecular interactions involved, including electrostatic interactions, steric repulsion, and depletion flocculation;
Understand the molecular nature of surfactants, and the relationship between their structure and CMC, and the effect of temperature, pressure, pH, ionic strength on their self-assembly;
Be able to use Einstein’s diffusion equation and Fick’s laws of diffusion for calculations of the diffusion coefficient and a quantitative description of diffusion;
Understand the factors that affect the rates of chemical reactions;
Understand the expressions for the rate laws of complex reactions ;
Understand the nature of radical reactions, linear and branched-chain reactions, explosions, and mechanisms of reversible reactions;
Know the experimental methods for kinetic studies.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours




Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The module contains two components, lectures and laboratories.
The lectures focus on the fundamentals and theoretical aspects of the material and problem-solving.
Laboratory sessions combine learning of practical skills with the case-based study of subjects of high importance. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade

Not yet recorded.

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

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Review of results of in-class tests and homework/assignments. Feedback individually to students on laboratory reports from demonstrators.


Introduction to colloid and surface chemistry
D.J. Shaw

Principles of Colloid and Surface Chemistry
P.C. Hiemenz, R Rajagopalan

Applied Colloid and Surface Chemistry
R. Pashley, M.E. Karaman

Other books on colloids and surfaces

Books on Physical Chemistry
Name Role
Professor Susan Quinn Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Ms Francesca Adami Tutor
Ioanna Bampouri Tutor
Dominik Duleba Tutor
Mr Hans Eckhardt Tutor
Allan Finlay Tutor
Daniel Graczyk Tutor
Chenxi Hao Tutor
Mr Patrick Waldron Tutor
Donal Whelan Tutor
Clara Zehe Tutor