CHEM 342 - Physical Chemistry (Spring Semester, 2002)

Meeting Times and Places

  • Lectures: 9:30 - 10:45 AM, Tuesdays and Thursdays; Room 304 in Chem. Bldg.

  • Discussion/Problem Sessions: 2:00 - 3:30 PM, Mondays and Wednesdays; Room 305 in Chem. Bldg.

Course Instructor: Dr. Fred Richardson, (Phone: 924-3905; email: fsr@virginia edu)
  • Office: Room 131 in Chem. Bldg. Office Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:00-2:00 PM.
Textbook and Reference Material
  • Textbook: Physical Chemistry by Robert Mortimer (2nd edition, published by Harcourt/Academic Press in 2000). Copies of this textbook are available for purchase at the University Bookstore. A Student's Solutions Manual for selected end-of-chapter exercises and problems in this textbook is also available for purchase at the University Bookstore.

  • Reference Material: It is nearly always true that the majority of students in an introductory physical chemistry course find it useful to read or consult texts or reference books other than the assigned textbook for the course. This is important for gaining a broader understanding of the subject, for exposure to a wider variety of illustrations and problem-solving techniques, and for alternative explanations of complex phenomena. A number of Physical Chemistry textbooks and reference books have been placed on two-hour reserve in the Sci-Tech Library (Clark Hall) for use by CHEM 341 students. You are encouraged to consult these books as you study the material presented in this course. Additionally, please note that an extensive list of possibly useful reference books is given near the back (pp. 1097-1104) of the Mortimer textbook.

General Nature of the Course

CHEM 342 is an introductory physical chemistry course that focuses largely on the theory of molecular structure, the methods used to study molecular structure and dynamics, and the connections between molecular energetics, chemical thermodynamics, and chemical reaction kinetics. The course begins with a consideration of quantum theory and the application of quantum mechanics to describing and rationalizing various aspects of molecular structure and dynamics. It then moves on to consider chemical bonding theory and molecular energy-level structure. Next, various spectroscopic measurement techniques are discussed and are related to their use as probes of molecular structure and dynamics. Finally, the methods of statistical mechanics are introduced and are applied to the calculation of thermodynamic properties and chemical reaction rates. It is shown that the properties of a macroscopic chemical system may, in principle, be calculated from a detailed knowledge of the energy-level structures of the molecular constituents.

Topical Outline

  • Introduction to quantum theory and quantum mechanical principles and applications (Mortimer, Chapters 14, 15)

  • Electronic structure and spectra of atoms (Mortimer, Chapters 16, 17)

  • Electronic structure and chemical bonding in molecules (Mortimer, Chapter 18)

  • Molecular rotational and vibrational motions, energy levels, and spectroscopy (Mortimer, Chapters 19, 20)

  • Molecular spectroscopy and photochemistry (Mortimer, Chapter 20)

  • Statistical thermodynamics (Mortimer, Chapter 21)

  • Special topics related to the characterization and measurement of molecular properties 

Problem Solving Exercises

Essential to 'learning' physical chemistry are problem-solving exercises that illustrate connections between theory and experimental observation and measurement. In some cases, these exercises require applications of theoretical concepts and mathematically formulated relationships and models to the analysis and interpretation of experimental data. In other cases, they require the use of theory and calculations to predict the properties and behavior of systems not yet subjected to experimental study, or to predict the outcome of experiments being planned. Working problems in physical chemistry nearly always involves a combination of qualitative reasoning and quantitative calculations, and in many cases an essential part of the problem solving involves finding (or deriving) mathematical relationships appropriate for use in carrying out the calculations of interest. One of the characteristic features of physical chemistry is the extensive use of mathematics and mathematically formulated models to codify and relate in succinct, compact terms the findings obtained from multiple experimental observations and measurements, to express in explicit functional form the interdependencies of various physical and chemical properties (for static systems and for systems undergoing physical or chemical changes), and in some cases to show connections between the microscopic and macroscopic properties of a system. One cannot 'learn' physical chemistry without developing some understanding of, and a facility for using, its mathematical models and formulations. Problem-solving exercises provide the best means for doing that.

The textbook for this course includes many illustrations of problem solving and many examples of worked problems in each chapter. It also gives extensive sets of exercises and problems (at the ends of chapters) that may be used to practice your problem-solving skills and, in the course of doing that, also enhance your understanding of physical chemistry. Solutions to approximately one-half of the end-of-chapter exercises and problems are given in the Student's Solution Manual, which is available for purchase from the University Bookstore. You are encouraged to work as many of these exercises and problems as you can find the time to do. A subset of exercises and problems (chosen from among those not worked out in the Student's Solution Manual) may be assigned as out-of-class work to be handed in and graded.

It is anticipated that problem-solving exercises will be the main focus of the twice-weekly Discussion/Problem Sessions scheduled for this course. However, that need not be the case if the majority of students who attend these sessions would rather spend more time on questions and issues that arise (but are not satisfactorily resolved) during the regular class lecture periods. The format and content of the Discussion/Problems Sessions will be guided by student needs and preferences.

Graded Work

Course grades will be determined on the basis of performance on eight graded problem-set assignments (done as homework), two 120 min. in-class exams, and a 3 hr. final exam. Final course grades will reflect the following (approximate) contributions from the graded problem sets and exams:

problem sets (total) 20%

in-class exams (two) 50%

final exam 30%

(Some small adjustments to these weightings might become necessary, in which case I will let you know long before the semester ends.)

All work handed in for grading (including that done on problem sets, as well as exams) must carry a pledge that the work is entirely your own and was done without any collaboration with other persons (except for possible advice or guidance from the CHEM 342 course instructor). In doing the problem-set assignments you may consult any books or other (inanimate) reference material you wish.