PHS3102 - Statistical and condensed matter physics - 2019

6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit

School of Physics and Astronomy

Chief examiner(s)

Dr Alexis Bishop


Dr Lincoln Turner

Unit guides



  • Second semester 2019 (On-campus)


PHS3101 or PHS3031

Recommended: PHS2081


PHS3031 and PHS3042 completed together


This unit explores topics of foundational many-body physics. The unit consists of two theory-only sub-units, and the key areas for each sub-unit are:

  1. Statistical Physics: Classical statistical ensembles and distributions Boltzmann factors, probability and the partition function. Connecting the partition function with thermodynamics via free energies. The Maxwellian distributions of speeds. The chemical potential. The Maxwell-Boltzmann, Fermi-Dirac and Bose-Einstein probability distributions. Fermi gases at low and high temperature. Photon and phonon gases: black-body radiation and the Debye model. Bose-Einstein condensation. Applications to real systems such as melting of DNA and the exponential atmosphere.
  2. Condensed Matter Physics: real and reciprocal space lattices, classical and quantum models of atomic vibration in crystals, the basic theory for the behaviour of electrons and phonons in solid crystalline materials, Bloch's theorem and band theory, phonons, electronic properties of semiconductors, superconductivity, superfluidity, low dimensional materials, quasi-periodic and amorphous solids.


On completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Describe and perform calculations associated with fundamental concepts in Statistical Mechanics, which include both classical and quantum many-body systems.
  2. Describe concepts and perform calculations in Condensed Matter Physics, which involve crystal structures in 1D, 2D and 3D, quasicrystals, phonons, metals, semiconductors nanomaterials, superfluidity and superconductivity.
  3. Apply numerical modelling to solve problems in condensed matter and thermal physics;
  4. Demonstrate awareness of scientific computing methods and visualization.
  5. Demonstrate an ability to work in teams and to communicate and discuss physics concepts.
  6. Approach new problems and find solutions on the basis of general principles, and evaluate the appropriateness of their proposed models or solutions.


NOTE: From 1 July 2019, the duration of all exams is changing to combine reading and writing time. The new exam duration for this unit is 3 hours and 10 minutes.

Examination (3 hours): 50%

In-semester assessment : 50%

Workload requirements

The workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours spread across the semester (approximately 12 hours per week) - approximately an even mixture of attendance at scheduled activities and self-scheduled study time. Learning activities comprise a mixture of instructor directed, peer-directed and self-directed learning, which includes face-to-face and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study