• Offered by Research School of Physics
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Physics
  • Areas of interest Chemistry, Materials Science, Physics
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Adrian Sheppard
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2022
    See Future Offerings

See https://www.anu.edu.au/covid-19-advice. In Sem 1 2022, this course is delivered on campus with adjustments for remote participants.

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.

Note: Graduate students attend joint classes with undergraduates but are assessed separately.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Identify, critically analyse and describe the statistical nature of concepts and laws in thermodynamics, in particular: entropy, temperature, chemical potential, free energies, partition functions.
  2. Expertly use statistical physics methods, such as Boltzmann distribution, Gibbs distribution, Fermi-Dirac and Bose-Einstein distributions to solve complex problems in physical systems.
  3. Apply at an advanced level the concepts and principles of black-body radiation to analyze radiation phenomena in thermodynamic systems.
  4. Apply at an advanced level the concepts and laws of thermodynamics to solve problems in thermodynamic systems such as gases, heat engines and refrigerators etc.
  5. Critically analyze phase equilibrium condition and identify types of phase transitions of physical systems.
  6. Identify, critically analyse and transmit knowledge about the connections between thermal physics and various branches of physics.
  7. Demonstrate autonomy and expert judgement in the design, construction and execution of experiment and/or theoretical investigation; analysing data and explaining any errors; and comparing with theoretical predictions.
  8. Use Mathematica; Python, ANU's MakerSpace, Arduino microprocessors & sensors, tools for generating scientific figures/illustrations; generate/analyse data, and compare with and complete a MakerSpace project and an analysis and report of an MD simulation.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Weekly quizzes (5) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]
  2. Weekly homework (15) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,8]
  3. MakerSpace Project involving the construction and/or analysis of a thermodynamic engine (20) [LO 2,3,4,7,8]
  4. Mid-semester exam (20) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]
  5. Web-based Molecular Dynamics Project, use of an interactive simulation to construct a quantitative understanding/prediction of material behaviour through data collection and analysis, and scientifically explained in a written report (20) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8]
  6. FInal exam (20) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]

The ANU uses 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. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


The expected workload will consist of approximately 130 hours throughout the semester including:

  • Face-to face component which may consist of 1 x 3 hour lab session plus 2 x 2 hour workshop per week throughout the semester.
  • Approximately 46 hours of self-study which will include preparation for lectures, presentations and other assessment tasks.

Inherent Requirements

To be determined

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must be active in the Master of Science in Materials Science, Master of Science (Advanced) in Materials Science, Master of Science in Precision Instrumentation, Master of Science (Advanced) in Precision Instrumentation, Master of Science in Quantum Technology, Master of Science (Advanced) in Quantum Technology, Master of Science in Theoretical Physics, Master of Science (Advanced) in Theoretical Physics Incompatible with PHYS2020

Prescribed Texts

Daniel V Schroeder, An Introduction to Thermal Physics, Addison Wesley Longman, 2000

Assumed Knowledge

First year Maths and Physics recommended equivalent to: PHYS1101 and PHYS1201 and either MATH1013 or MATH1014 or MATH1115 or MATH1116. It is desirable that students will have taken courses equivalent to MATH2305 simultaneously with PHYS2013 unless they have previously completed MATH2023, but it is not a course requirement.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $4200
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $6000
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
3868 21 Feb 2022 28 Feb 2022 31 Mar 2022 27 May 2022 In Person View

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