• Class Number 3250
  • Term Code 3230
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Prof Adrian Sheppard
    • Prof Adrian Sheppard
    • Dr Lan Fu
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 21/02/2022
  • Class End Date 27/05/2022
  • Census Date 31/03/2022
  • Last Date to Enrol 28/02/2022
    • Jordan McMahon
    • Louise Godhard
    • Toby Hardcastle
    • Joshua Dai
    • Dr Zhe Li
SELT Survey Results

Thermal physics deals with collections of large numbers of individual particles such as the air in a balloon, water in a lake, electrons in a chunk of metal and photons emitted from the sun. Many properties of these collections are independent of atomic details: examples are the direction of heat flow, that liquids more readily boil at lower pressure, and that the maximum efficiency of an engine depends upon temperature range and not the working fluid and the set of principles that govern these generic properties is referred to as classical thermodynamics. Other properties do depend upon atomic details - the framework by which we relate the quantum behaviour of one individual particle and to properties of a collection of large number of these particles is referred to as statistical mechanics. From understanding the greenhouse effect to the blackbody radiation left over from the Big Bang, no other physical theory is used more widely through out science than thermal physics.

This course provides an introduction to classical thermodynamics, with applications in materials science & engineering and earth science, as well as statistical thermodynamics, with applications in solid state physics and astrophysics.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Identify and describe the statistical nature of concepts and laws in thermodynamics, in particular: entropy, temperature, chemical potential, free energies, partition functions.
  2. Use the statistical physics methods, such as Boltzmann distribution, Gibbs distribution, Fermi-Dirac and Bose-Einstein distributions to solve problems in some physical systems.
  3. Apply the concepts and principles of black-body radiation to analyze radiation phenomena in thermodynamic systems.
  4. Apply the concepts and laws of thermodynamics to solve problems in thermodynamic systems such as gases, heat engines and refrigerators etc.
  5. Analyze phase equilibrium condition and identify types of phase transitions of physical systems.
  6. Make connections between applications of general statistical theory in various branches of physics.
  7. Design, set up, and carry out experiments; analyse data recognising and accounting for errors; and compare with theoretical predictions.

Required Resources

  • An Introduction to Thermal Physics" by Daniel Schroeder, Oxford University Press 422 p. (Beware that some older paperback versions are missing >60 pages)
  • A device (laptop, smartphone, iPad) that will allow you to access Wattle pages during our workshop and take quizzes. Laptop should have Mathematica (refer to the PHYS2020 Wattle page for download instructions).

Recommended student system requirements 

ANU courses commonly use a number of online resources and activities including:

  • video material, similar to YouTube, for lectures and other instruction
  • two-way video conferencing for interactive learning
  • email and other messaging tools for communication
  • interactive web apps for formative and collaborative activities
  • print and photo/scan for handwritten work
  • home-based assessment.

To fully participate in ANU learning, students need:

  • A computer or laptop. Mobile devices may work well but in some situations a computer/laptop may be more appropriate.
  • Webcam
  • Speakers and a microphone (e.g. headset)
  • Reliable, stable internet connection. Broadband recommended. If using a mobile network or wi-fi then check performance is adequate.
  • Suitable location with minimal interruptions and adequate privacy for classes and assessments.
  • Printing, and photo/scanning equipment

For more information please see https://www.anu.edu.au/students/systems/recommended-student-system-requirements

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • Weekly quiz feedback (on Wattle, with partial to full solutions)
  • Weekly homework feedback (on Wattle, personalised marking with solutions)
  • Project Report (on Wattle, personalised marking)
  • Mid-Term Exam (by appointment with Convenor)
  • Second Year Laboratory convenor will provide feedback on laboratory reports.

Students will be able to track their assessment progress on the Wattle grade book.

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Other Information

Please note, that where there are multiple assessment tasks of the same type, e.g weekly quizzes, a date range is used in the Assessment Summary. The first date is the release date of the first task, the return date is the due date for the final task. Further information is provided in the assessment section of the class summary, and details are provided on the course wattle site.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Weekly Lesson Plans Weeks:1 - 12 Follow the week's Lesson Plan (released a week before the workshop) and complete tasks which include: Understand Lecture videos and/or reading assignments. Take the Quiz, which includes >5 questions/problems. You must open and attempt the quiz at least once before the workshop: it will close at the advertised time. Do the Homework Assignment, which must be uploaded before the due date Attend and participate in the 2 hr workshop, where a marked quiz will be administered. Bring to each workshop: questions or comments about misunderstandings of the week's content writing materials, paper, a calculator or laptop (with Mathematica) for Wattle-based short quizzes a copy of Schroeder Complete one individualised project Week 2-11, chosen from • Experimental project using the MakerSpace (Stirling Engine, Water Rocket, Moka Pot) • Simulation project (Web-based Molecular Dynamics) and complete a short report/video of your work and conclusions. Organise your Second Year Lab component of the course so that you complete 4 labs (one requires a written report) if you are taking Phys2020 and NOT taking Phys2103, or complete 8 labs (two require a written report) if you are taking both Phys2020 and Phys2014
2 Second Year physics Lab program If you are enrolled in only one of PHYS2013 or PHYS2020, you must undertake four afternoons of lab and produce one formal report. Your overall lab mark will be out of 40 and will contribute 20% to the course you are enrolled in. If you are enrolled in both PHYS2013 and PHYS2020, you must undertake eight afternoons of lab and produce two formal reports. Your overall lab mark will be out of 80 and will contribute 20% to BOTH of the courses you are enrolled in. Labs that are directly relevant to PHYS2020: Kinetic gas, Stirling engine, Solar house, Motorised molecules, Peltier devices.
3 Week 1 Temperature & heat transfer Quiz
4 Week 2 Ideal & Real gases, Equipartition & the First Law Quiz
5 Week 3 The First Law (continued), Enthalpy, Heat Capacities & Micro/Macrostates Quiz
6 Week 4 Micro/Macrostates & Multiplicity of macrostates for Einstein Solids & Ideal Gas Quiz, Milestone Project Report #1
7 Week 5 Entropy Quiz
8 Week 6 Carnot Cycle & Engines Quiz, Mid-Term
9 Week 7 Thermodynamic Identity, Maxwell's Relations Quiz
10 Week 8 Chemical Reactions, Phase Transformations & Fuel Cells Quiz, Milestone Project Report #2
11 Week 9 Boltzmann Statistics and the Partition Function Quiz
12 Week 10 Ideal gas and Quantum Statistics Quiz
13 Week 11 Fermions: Degenerate Fermi gases Quiz, Final Project Report Due
15 Week 12 Bosons: Blackbody Radiation & Planck's Distribution Quiz

Tutorial Registration

Please see the Physics Second Year Labs WATTLE site for information about the labs, assessment and sign-up. For Phys2020, students must complete 4 weeks of lab, including 1 draft and 1 final report.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Weekly Wattle Quizzes 5 % * * 1,2,3,4,5,6
Project 20 % 20/05/2022 02/06/2022 1,2,3,4,5,6
Weekly Homework Assignments 15 % * * 1,2,3,4,5,6
Laboratory 20 % * * 2,3,4,7
Mid-term exam 20 % 19/04/2022 23/04/2022 1,2,3,4,5,6
Final exam 20 % 02/06/2022 30/06/2022 1,2,3,4,5,6

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Integrity . In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


  • Update your Profile on the Wattle page (Top Right Corner of the page), inserting a photograph of yourself. This is useful for us to learn your name and so that your picture appears with any forum post.
  • Wednesday 1-hr workshop is used to complete problems from the previous Monday 2-hr workshop, and to consult on homework, HPO/ASE, and project submissions.
  • You should sign up for one laboratory session (either on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Friday) if you are taking PHYS2020 or if you are taking PHYS2020 and PHYS2013.
  • If you are enrolled in only one of PHYS2013 or PHYS2020, you must undertake four afternoons of lab and produce one formal report.
  • If you are enrolled in both PHYS2013 and PHYS2020, you must undertake eight afternoons of lab and produce two formal reports. Your overall lab mark will be out of 80 and will contribute 20% to BOTH of the courses you are enrolled in. 


A mid-term exam and a final exam will be scheduled. Please refer to the ANU examinations timetable or PHYS2020 Wattle page for examination times and location.

Please note, that where a date range is used in the Assessment Summary in relation to exams, the due date and return date for mid-semester exams indicate the approximate timeframe in which the exam will be held; the due and return date for end of semester exams indicate the approximate timeframe in which the exam will be held and the date official end of Semester results are released on ISIS. Students should consult the course wattle site and the ANU final examination timetable to confirm the date, time and venue of the exam.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 5 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Weekly Wattle Quizzes

Note the conditions of each question/problem in the quiz:

  • Multiple attempts are usually allowed with varying degrees of penalty for wrong attempts.
  • Because inputs are chosen randomly for each student's quiz, your classmates correct solution is not necessarily your correct solution. 
  • Students may be randomly allocated different sets of quiz questions.
  • You must open and attempt the quiz at least once before the workshop: it will close at the advertised time.
  • Refer to the PHYS2020 Wattle page for weekly submission dates

There are 24 quizzes administered over the semester:

• 12 weekly quizzes are administered with each week's lesson plan. These quizzes contain 6-10 questions/problems with multiple attempts allowed, and are open for 10 days. To receive a mark on this quiz, at least one attempt must be made before the workshop. At the advertised closing date, the student will receive immediate, automated feedback on all saved responses, as well as solutions.

• 12 short (single attempt) quizzes are administered within the workshop, requiring the student's attendance at the 2 hr workshop. These short quizzes are marked immediately upon submission.

Students are expected to contribute on an on-going basis throughout the semester.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 20/05/2022
Return of Assessment: 02/06/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6


You will need to choose 1 of two projects to complete: (refer to the PHYS2020 Wattle site for project web links)

  • Schroeder's Molecular Dynamics: Your individual Schroeder project requires that you implement an MD simulation to explore concepts in thermal physics. Your report, 5-8 pages in length should describe (1) the MD simulation, (2) your system & the concept you are demonstrating, as well as (3) quantitative results that make use of the data.
  • MakerSpace Project: This MakerSpace project involves the construction of an operational Stirling Engine, made of 3-D printed movable components, glass pistons (syringes) and a fixed stage which you are to design. All of the necessary components needed to complete the engine are provided; however, you are free to chose some variations to the design as long as the materials can be provisioned. 
  • Your individual MakerSpace project requires that (1) you design/build the engine, (2) analyse its operation, and (3) provide a video report of your work and the engine of 4-7 minutes in duration (different people have different delivery speeds!). Your video will be uploaded on the course Wattle site. You are not required to submit your engine - instead, we hope that you keep it (and possibly use it to power another device of your own design).

Refer to the PHYS2020 Wattle page for submission of 3 milestone due dates, including the final submission in Week 11.


Assessment Task 3

Value: 15 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Weekly Homework Assignments

Homework assignments are administered with each week's lesson plan. You are given 10 days to complete each of the 12 assignments

  • Refer to the PHYS2020 Wattle page for weekly submission dates as well as upload to wattle information
  • Homework must be submitted through Phys2020 Wattle page before advertised due date and may include a jpg/png/pdf file of legibly handwritten work.

There are 12 assignments due over the semester. It is intended that the marked assignments will be returned within 7 days after submission. Further details can be found on the Course Wattle site.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 20 %
Learning Outcomes: 2,3,4,7


  • If you are enrolled in only one of PHYS2013 or PHYS2020, you must undertake four afternoons of lab and produce one formal report. Your overall lab mark will be out of 40 and will contribute 20% to the course you are enrolled in.
  • If you are enrolled in both PHYS2013 and PHYS2020, you must undertake eight afternoons of lab and produce two formal reports. Your overall lab mark will be out of 80 and will contribute 20% to BOTH of the courses you are enrolled in. 

Further details can be found on the Course Wattle site.

Assessment Task 5

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 19/04/2022
Return of Assessment: 23/04/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Mid-term exam

The mid-term exam covers the first 6 weeks of the course. Details TBC, most likely to be a 3-hour exam with the following conditions

• calculator, pen/pencil

• A4 sheet of handwritten notes, double-sided

Please check the course Wattle site and the ANU Examination Timetable to confirm the date, time and location of the mid semester exam.

Assessment Task 6

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 02/06/2022
Return of Assessment: 30/06/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Final exam

The final exam covers the last 6 weeks of the course. Allowable materials for the 3 hour exam are

• calculator, pen/pencil

• A4 sheet of handwritten notes, double-sided

Please refer to the ANU examinations timetable or PHYS2020 Wattle page for examination times and location.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically, committing to honest and responsible scholarly practice and upholding these values with respect and fairness.

The ANU commits to assisting all members of our community to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle and Academic Misconduct Rule, uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with.

The Academic Misconduct Rule is in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Very minor breaches of the academic integrity principle may result in a reduction of marks of up to 10% of the total marks available for the assessment. The ANU offers a number of online and in person services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. Visit the Academic Skills website for more information about academic integrity, your responsibilities and for assistance with your assignments, writing skills and study.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

All assessable items must be submitted through the Wattle site. Submissions emailed to convenor/tutors cannot be accepted.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

In Phys2020, no hardcopy submissions are permissible.

Late Submission

Late submission of the project report without an extension is penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of project report is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date. Late submission is not accepted for quiz or homework assessments.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Returning Assignments

All feedback, including personalised marking of the project report and homework, is returned to the student through the Course Wattle grade book.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Resubmission of Assignments

No resubmission are permitted.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Prof Adrian Sheppard

Research Interests

3D Imaging, complex materials, carbon storage, biophysics

Prof Adrian Sheppard

Monday By Appointment
Wednesday By Appointment
Prof Adrian Sheppard

Research Interests

Prof Adrian Sheppard

Monday By Appointment
Wednesday By Appointment
Dr Lan Fu

Research Interests

Dr Lan Fu

Jordan McMahon

Research Interests

Jordan McMahon

Louise Godhard

Research Interests

Louise Godhard

Toby Hardcastle

Research Interests

Toby Hardcastle

Joshua Dai

Research Interests

Joshua Dai

Dr Zhe Li

Research Interests

Dr Zhe Li

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions