Molecules, Materials and Measurement 2

Module aims

This module aims to build on your understanding of materials and thermodynamics from Molecules and Energetics 1 by providing you with a fundamental understanding of how thermodynamics and quantum physics underpins the physical behaviour of materials-based systems. It will also describe the main techniques for quantitative chemical analysis of molecules and enable you to understand statistics and experimental errors, and the main analytical techniques and instrumentation. In addition, it will enable you to describe and understand the main techniques for analytical separation.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this module you will be able to: 1) Describe the thermodynamic principles underpinning phase changes of material systems, the concepts of nucleation and growth, the electronic band structure of solids and the quantum mechanical origins of fluorescence 2) Recognise the fundamental principles underpinning the thermodynamic and electronic behaviour of materials-based systems. 3) Use underlying principles to predict the phase behaviour and optical/electrical behaviour of materials systems 4) Describe the principles and applications of the main chromatography and other analytical chemistry techniques and their applications in biomedical engineering 5) Combine information from multiple analytical methods to identify a sample 6) Design and build analytical instrumentation 7) Select and apply appropriate techniques in a wet-lab setting to investigate a problem or conduct an experiment in a safe and effective manner 8) Critically interpret analytical data using suitable statistical tools

Module syllabus

 1 Thermodynamics and Kinetics: Thermodynamics of phase changes in unary and binary systems, thermodynamics of mixing, nucleation and growth 2 Electronic and Optical Properties of Materials. LCAO-MO theory, band theory of solids, Schrodinger equation and wave nature of electrons, density of states, statistical origins of Fermi-Dirac/Boltzmann distributions, doping of semiconductors, quantum mechanical effects in nanoscale systems, surface plasmons. History and outline of the analytical sciences A brief outline of the history of analytical science, and a broad overview of what the module will be about. Discussion will include how these techniques are used in the real world for different applications. Optical methods Microscopy, spectroscopy and many other types of technique in which materials and samples are studies by their interaction with electromagnetic radiation NMR / EPR / MRI An overview of magnetic resonance techniques, with a focus on using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) to determine structural information about a sample. Electrochemical techniques Many materials can change oxidation state in response to an applied potential, and the potential at which this occurs, as well as the recorded current, can provide useful information on the system under test. Scanning probe techniques Imaging nanoscale features can be done with extremely sharp tips and other nanoscale probes. A few examples will be highlighted, and the information they can give will be discussed. Electron Microscopy Electron microscopy uses focused beams of electrons to image a sample at nanoscale resolution. The design of these microscopes and what information they provide will be elaborated upon. Chromatography and Separation Techniques Analysing a sample can be greatly simplified if it can be separated into its constituent components. There are a variety of ways of achieving this goal, and a prominent selection will be highlighted. Mass Spectrometry Mass spectrometry first breaks a molecule into fragments, and then analyses these fragments by their mass-to-charge ratio. Some methods for performing mass spectrometry will be given and some guidelines will be offered for analysis of mass spectra. Polymerase Chain Reaction The polymerase chain reaction has won a Nobel prize and is critical to many biological fields. Some details on the history of the technique will be provided, its use for DNA amplification, and some thoughts offered on why it is so successful as an analytical technique. Methods for analysing specific samples Some techniques are designed to work on a specific subset of analytes. Some of these will be discussed, such as DNA sequencing and immunostaining.

Teaching methods

  • Molecules and Materials: Lectures 18h
  • Measurement: Lectures 18h


  • Molecules and Materials: Progress test 25%, Problem sheet 17.5%, Lab report 7.5%
  • Measurement: Written exam 35%, Lab portfolio 15%

Reading list