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PH10048: Introduction to quantum physics [WL]

[Page last updated: 21 April 2022]

Academic Year: 2022/3
Owning Department/School: Department of Physics
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Certificate (FHEQ level 4)
Semester 2
Assessment Summary: EX 85%, PR 15%
Assessment Detail:
  • Coursework (PR 15%)
  • Examination (EX 85%)
Supplementary Assessment:
PH10048D - OT reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Requisites: Before or while taking this module you must ( take PH10005 OR take PH10053 ) AND ( take PH10007 OR take MA10230 )
You must have A-level Physics (or equivalent) and A-level Mathematics (or equivalent) to take this unit.
Learning Outcomes: After taking this unit the student should be able to:
* discuss evidence for the quantum nature of microscopic phenomena;
* describe models of the atom, the origin of quantisation of energy and the origin of the periodic table;
* discuss wave-particle duality and the uncertainty principle;
* classify the fundamental particles of nature;
* solve simple quantitative problems concerning the interaction of light with matter;
* demonstrate the correct use of common laboratory equipment, maintain a scientific logbook, perform basic error analysis and produce an outline scientific report.

Aims: The aims of this unit are to review the scientific developments which reveal the breakdown of classical physics at the atomic level, to introduce the ideas of energy and angular momentum quantisation and the electronic structure of atoms, to discuss the dual wave-particle nature of matter and radiation, and to introduce our current picture of elementary particles and the forces between them.

Skills: Written Communication T/F A, Numeracy T/F A, Data Acquisition, Handling, and Analysis T/F A, Information Technology T/F A, Problem Solving T/F A, Working as part of a group T/F, Practical laboratory skills T/F A.

Content: Waves and photons (7 hours): Classical versus quantum physics. An introduction to waves, the wave nature of light: Young's slit experiment, x-ray diffraction (Braggs law), the electromagnetic spectrum; inadequacies of classical models.
Wave-particle duality (4 hours): Black-body radiation; the ultraviolet catastrophe and Planck's theory of cavity radiation. Photons and the particle-like properties of electromagnetic radiation: the photoelectric effect. The electromagnetic spectrum. X-rays. Compton scattering. De Broglie's hypothesis. Electron diffraction. Wave aspects of larger particles; atoms, molecules, neutrons. An introduction to the wavefunction and its interpretation. The uncertainty principle. Introduction to the Schrödinger Equation: a particle in an infinite, square, potential well.
Atomic structure (6 hours): Structure of atoms; scattering of alpha-particles and Rutherford's model, electrons and ions, atomic mass units, Avogadro's number. The Bohr model of the atom. Atomic orbitals, the Pauli exclusion principle, the origin of the periodic table and trends down the groups. Deficiencies of Bohr's model.
Introduction to particle physics (5 hours): Quarks, leptons and mediators. Antiparticles. Quark model of hadrons. Baryon and lepton number. The four forces. Exchange particles and Feynman diagrams. Laboratory: Performance of experiments designed to develop practical skills and support lecture material.

Programme availability:

PH10048 is Compulsory on the following programmes:

Department of Physics
  • USXX-AFB03 : BSc(Hons) Mathematics and Physics (Year 1)
  • USXX-AAB04 : BSc(Hons) Mathematics and Physics with Study year abroad (Year 1)
  • USXX-AKB04 : BSc(Hons) Mathematics and Physics with Year long work placement (Year 1)
  • USXX-AFM01 : MSci(Hons) Mathematics and Physics (Year 1)
  • USXX-AAM01 : MSci(Hons) Mathematics and Physics with Study year abroad (Year 1)
  • USXX-AKM01 : MSci(Hons) Mathematics and Physics with Year long work placement (Year 1)


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2022/23 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2023/24 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2022/23.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
  • Find out more about these and other important University terms and conditions here.