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Theoretical Physics 4B (Thermodynamics and Elements of Statistical Mechanics)

Module PH0012 [ThPh 4B]

This module handbook serves to describe contents, learning outcome, methods and examination type as well as linking to current dates for courses and module examination in the respective sections.

Module version of SS 2016

There are historic module descriptions of this module. A module description is valid until replaced by a newer one.

Whether the module’s courses are offered during a specific semester is listed in the section Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature below.

available module versions
SS 2021SS 2020SS 2019SS 2018SS 2016WS 2010/1

Basic Information

PH0012 is a semester module in German language at Master’s level which is offered in summer semester.

This Module is included in the following catalogues within the study programs in physics.

  • Physics Modules for Students of Education

If not stated otherwise for export to a non-physics program the student workload is given in the following table.

Total workloadContact hoursCredits (ECTS)
270 h 90 h 9 CP

Responsible coordinator of the module PH0012 in the version of SS 2016 was Alejandro Ibarra.

Content, Learning Outcome and Preconditions


Temperature and heat

  1. Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution, ideal gas law, temperature and pressure
  2. work, heat, entropy, thermodynamical processes

Fundamentals of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics

  1. QM many particle systems, density operators
  2. entropy, thermal equilibrium, microcanonical distribution
  3. canonical distribution, partition functions
  4. thermodynamic potentials, stability
  5. Jarzynski-Crooks fluctuation theorem

Ideal gases

  1. interaction-free quantum gases, classical limes
  2. degenerate fermi and bose gas
  3. bose einstein condensate
  4. photons, thermodynamics of radiation, phonons

Interacting gases, liquids, phase transitions

  1. virial expansion, van der Waals equation, phase equilibrium
  2. pair correlation, structure factor
  3. Poisson-Boltzmann and Debye-Hückel theory
  4. lattice gas and Ising model

  5. molecular field approximation, Ginzburg-Landau theory, critical exponents

Non equilibrium thermodynamics

  1. brownian motion, fluctuation dissipation theorem
  2. particle and heat diffusion, Einstein relation

Learning Outcome

After successful participation, students are able to

  1. know the fundamental terms of temperature and heat and master the corresponding relations
  2. comprehend the basics of statistical mechanics and their consequences for macroscopic effects in thermodynamics
  3. describe ideal (quantum) gases and know their meaning in certain cases
  4. know important properties and descriptions of interacting gases and liquids as well as the behaviour at phase transitions
  5. reproduce an insight into processes of non equilibrium thermodynamics


PH0005, PH0006, PH0007

Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature

Courses and Schedule

Learning and Teaching Methods

In the thematically structured lecture the learning content is presented.

In the Tutorial the learning content is deepened and exercised using problem examples and calculations. Additionally in scientific discussions the analytic-physics intellectual power is stimulated so that the students are able to explain and apply the learned physics knowledge independently.


writing on blackboard, presentations, computer animations

freely available lecture notes

exercise problems


D.V. Schroeder: An Introduction to Thermal Physics (Addison Wesley 2000)
R. Balian: From Microphysics to Macrophysics (Springer 1991)
L.D. Landau / E.M. Lifschitz: Lehrbuch der Theoretischen Physik, Band V
S. K. Ma, Statistical Mechanics (World Scientific 1985)
R. K. Pathria, Statistical Mechanics, 2nd Edition (Butterworth Heinemann 1996)
T. Fließbach, Statistische Physik, Spektrum Wissenschaftlicher Verlag

Module Exam

Description of exams and course work

There will be an oral exam of about 60 minutes duration. Therein the achievement of the competencies given in section learning outcome is tested exemplarily at least to the given cognition level using comprehension questions and sample calculations. Especially important is to prove that she/he has realised the correlation between different topics in thermodynamics and is able to explain this in a comprehensive manner. In an (developing) oral exam this can be proved in the most efficient way.

For example an assignment in the exam might be:

  • What is the first law of thermodynamics?
  • How is entropy calculated in statistics physics and what is the meaning of it?
  • What kind of statistics must be used to describe an electron gas?

Exam Repetition

The exam may be repeated at the end of the semester.

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