CHEM 2010 Physical Chemistry

Credit Points 10

Legacy Code 300849

Coordinator Gang Zheng Opens in new window

Description Physical Chemistry describes the fundamentals of energy changes in chemical systems (thermodynamics), the rates and mechanisms of chemical reactions (kinetics), and electrochemistry and/or ion and electron transport. These concepts will be applied to a range of chemical and/or biochemical processes. A major focus of the subject will be to develop the ability to study quantitative chemical/biochemical problems, and develop useful physical chemistry experimental and data-analysis skills.

School Science

Discipline Chemical Sciences, Not Elsewhere Classified.

Student Contribution Band HECS Band 2 10cp

Check your fees via the Fees page.

Level Undergraduate Level 2 subject

Pre-requisite(s) CHEM 1008 Introductory Chemistry


Successful completion of 60 credit points

Assumed Knowledge

This subject requires a knowledge of introductory concepts in differential and integral calculus.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this subject, students should be able to:

  1. Apply the First Law of thermodynamics to a system and its surroundings.
  2. Explain the Second Law of thermodynamics and relate it to the physical meaning of entropy of a system.
  3. Gather data, synthesise and calculate changes in state functions such as enthalpy, entropy, and Gibbs free energy.
  4. Relate thermodynamic quantities to the potential of an electrochemical cell.
  5. Determine rate laws from kinetic data and relate these to mechanisms and the determination of theoretical rate equations.
  6. Conduct basic chemistry experiments, individually or as a member of a team, showing familiarity with scientific instrumentation, identifying accuracy and reliability, and carrying out risk assessments.
  7. Analyse and communicate experimental data correctly in a Lab Report and/or record of the results of investigations, using the conventions of scientific writing.

Subject Content

  1. The First Law of Thermodynamics and transfer of energy as work and/or heat due to some simple physical and biological processes
  2. The difference between thermodynamically reversible and irreversible processes
  3. Heat capacities, and the relationships between heat and enthalpy change
  4. The Second Law of Thermodynamics, its applications, and the calculation of entropy of the system, and surroundings
  5. Calculation of Gibbs free energy and their effect on (1) the direction of chemical change; (2) the equilibrium constant of a chemical reaction; and (3) the reversible potential of an electrochemical cell and/or ion transport across a biological membrane
  6. Calculation of equilibrium constants using thermodynamic quantities, with applications to a range of chemical/biological processes, and how chemical equilibria are affected by changed reaction conditions and/or inter- and intramolecular interactions
  7. Use of van't Hoff plots for calculating enthalpy and entropy changes
  8. The relationship between thermodynamic quantities and the equilibrium potential of an electrochemical cell, and/or ion and electron transport in biological systems (for example, ion channels and ion pumps)
  9. Thermodynamic nonideality and its modelling using activities and activity coefficients
  10. Rate equations, reaction orders and rate constants and determination of simple rate laws from experimental kinetic data using integrated rate equations and initial rate methods
  11. The relationships between reaction mechanisms and rate equations, and the effects of temperature on reaction rates
  12. Use of the steady-state and pre-equilibrium approximations in a range of kinetic calculations; and/or enzyme catalysis and inhibition as illustrated by Michaelis-Menten model
  13. Laboratory skills and techniques in the physical chemistry laboratory, including safety requirements
  14. Simulation skills in physical chemistry


The following table summarises the standard assessment tasks for this subject. Please note this is a guide only. Assessment tasks are regularly updated, where there is a difference your Learning Guide takes precedence.

Type Length Percent Threshold Individual/Group Task
Numerical Problem Solving Up to 1,000 words 35 N Individual
Practical Lab report about 200 words each (x5) 35 N Individual
Final Exam 2 hours 30 N Individual

Teaching Periods

Spring (2023)

Parramatta - Victoria Rd


Subject Contact Gang Zheng Opens in new window

View timetable Opens in new window

Spring (2024)



Subject Contact Gang Zheng Opens in new window

View timetable Opens in new window

Parramatta - Victoria Rd


Subject Contact Gang Zheng Opens in new window

View timetable Opens in new window