Materials Physics on an Atomistic Scale 1

Module PH2218

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.

Basic Information

PH2218 is a semester module in German or English language at Master’s level which is offered in winter semester.

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

  • General catalogue of special courses
  • Specific catalogue of special courses for Applied and Engineering Physics
  • Specific catalogue of special courses for condensed matter physics

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

Total workloadContact hoursCredits (ECTS)
150 h 40 h 5 CP

Responsible coordinator of the module PH2218 is Winfried Petry.

Content, Learning Outcome and Preconditions


This module is concerned with the arrangement and movement of atoms in solids. As these aspects determine to a large part the macroscopic properties of matter, their microscopical understanding is fundamental to, e.g., the tuning of materials for technological applications. 

Going beyond the coverage of the previous semesters' Solid State Physics course, the following topics will be treated in detail:

  • the arrangement of atoms in a solid -- crystal structures and symmetries, alloys and ordered compounds, statistical models and phase diagrams
  • deviations from this ideal arrangement -- point defects, dislocations, grain boundaries, surfaces
  • oscillations of atoms about their equilibrium positions -- phonons 

In the following summer term, the second part of the course will concern itself with

  • atoms exchanging places -- diffusive dynamics, jump mechanisms in elemental systems and ordered compounds, mass flux
  • break-down of long-range order -- glasses, melts, and their dynamics
  • transitions between different states of order -- dynamics and kinetics of phase transitions

For all the above points it is intended to give both a description of the physically observed phenomena and their motivation by microscopic models. Also, the relevant experimental techniques will be indicated and explained in principle, and, where applicable, simple computer models of the effects will be presented and provided to the students for tinkering with. 

Learning Outcome

Upon successful completion of the module, students are able to

  • list the main crystal structures and analyze them with respect to their symmetries
  • discuss qualitative features of interactions between atoms and their relation to the resulting atomic arrangements
  • use the concepts of reciprocal space
  • derive models for free energy and solve them to determine defect concentrations and qualitative phase diagrams
  • understand the concept of phonons, their branches and symmetries over reciprocal space, densities of states and anharmonic effects
  • propose and justify experimental and/or theoretical methods to elucidate simple problems of atomic-scale materials science


No preconditions exceeding the admission requirements for the master degree program.

Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature

Courses and Schedule

VO 2 Materialphysik auf atomarer Skala 1 Leitner, M. Mittwoch, 16:00–18:00

Learning and Teaching Methods

Blackboard writing and verbal lecturing with active contributions from students (comprehension questions), occasional use of projector for diagrams, demonstrations of simple computer models (to be provided to the students for hands-on computer experimentation)


small program scripts to demonstrate simple models


Fundaments of solid-state physics:

  • Neil W. Ashcroft, N. David Mermin: Solid State Physics
  • H. Ibach, H. Lüth: Festkörperphysik
  • Ch. Kittel: Introduction to Solid State Physics
  • R. Gross, A. Marx: Festkörperphysik

Statistical physics:

  • F. Schwabl: Statistische Mechanik

Materials physics:

  • G. Gottstein: Physikalische Grundlagen der Metallkunde
  • P. Haasen: Physikalische Metallkunde
  • D. A. Porter, K. E. Easterling: Transformations in Metals and Alloys

Module Exam

Description of exams and course work

In an oral exam the learning outcome is tested using comprehension questions and sample problems.

Remarks on associated module exams

The exam for this module can be taken together with the exam to the associated follow-up module PH2219: Materialphysik auf atomarer Skala 2 / Materials Physics on an Atomistic Scale 2 after the follwoing semester. In this case you need to register for both exams in the following semester.

Exam Repetition

There is a possibility to take the exam at the end of the semester. There is a possibility to take the exam in the following semester.

Condensed Matter

When atoms interact things can get interesting. Fundamental research on the underlying properties of materials and nanostructures and exploration of the potential they provide for applications.

Nuclei, Particles, Astrophysics

A journey of discovery to understanding our world at the subatomic scale, from the nuclei inside atoms down to the most elementary building blocks of matter. Are you ready for the adventure?


Biological systems, from proteins to living cells and organisms, obey physical principles. Our research groups in biophysics shape one of Germany's largest scientific clusters in this area.