Thermal Physics (PHYS*2240)

Code and section: PHYS*2240*01

Term: Fall 2021

Instructor: Xiaorong Qin


Course Information

Calendar Descriptions

This course will introduce students to the basic ideas of thermal physics, including temperature, heat, work, thermal and diffusive equilibrium, and the Boltzmann distribution. The statistical basis for entropy and for thermodynamics will be discussed. Applications of thermodynamics to both non-interacting and interacting systems will be presented.

Prerequisite: (1 of IPS*1510, MATH*1210, MATH*2080),(IPS*1500 or PHYS*1080)


Lecturer Office Ext Email
Xiaorong Qin MacN 449 53675


Day Time Location
Monday, Wednesday, Friday 12:30 – 1:20 pm MCKN 229

Course Materials

Required Text

  • Finn’s Thermal Physics (3rd Edition), by Andrew Rex, C.B.P. Finn, 2017. (ISBN 9781498718875)

  • Thermal Physics (2nd Edition), C.B.P. Finn, Nelson Thornes, 1993. (ISBN 0-7487-4379-0)

Recommended References

  1. An introduction to Thermal Physics, D. V. Schroeder, Addison Wesley Longman, 2000. (ISBN 0-201-38027-7)
  2. Concepts in Thermal Physics (Second Edition), S. J. Blundell and K. M. Blundell, Oxford University Press, 2010 (ISBN 978-0-19-956210-7)
  3. Equilibrium Thermodynamics (Third Edition), C.J. Adkins, Cambridge University Press, 1983. (ISBN 0-521-27456-7)


Assessment Weight
Participation 5%
(Wed, 2:30-3:20 pm, ROZH 102)
Assignments 25%
(~ Oct 15, TBA)
Final Exam 35%

The assignment is due on the given due date via a “Dropbox” folder on the Courselink site. Unless exceptional circumstances, marks will be deducted for
lateness (10% per day)

Major Lecture Topics

  • Equilibrium systems and equations of state --- introduction to thermodynamic variables, stability (equilibrium concepts), quasi-static process, reversible process, ideal gas, temperature, thermal energy, van der Waals fluid.
  • First law of thermodynamics --- heat, work, heat capacities, enthalpy, isothermal and adiabatic reversible processes, steady flow processes, heat engines.
  • Second law of thermodynamics --- Carnot cycles, entropy and entropy change, Clausius inequality, consequences of second law, thermodynamic potentials and Maxwell relations, equilibrium conditions, 2-phase coexistence equilibrium, phase diagrams, Clausius-Clapeyron equation, chemical potential.
  • Joule expansion (Free expansion), Joule-Thompson (Joule-Kelvin) expansion
  • Basic probability concepts --- Boltzmann formula for entropy
  • Statistics and partition functions --- Ising Model, monatomic ideal gas (translational part of energy), diatomic gas (vibrational part of energy), heat capacity at low temperatures.
  • Black body radiation --- calculation of thermodynamic quantities (e.g., energy)

Course Statements

Collaboration versus Copying

Scientists work alone or in groups, very often consulting fellow scientists and discussing their research problems with peers. Collaboration is a feature of scientific activity and there are many benefits to working with others. However, no ethical scientist would ever publish or claim the work of others as his or her own and generally scientists give reference to the appropriate source of ideas or techniques which are not their own.

You are a young scientist and, in this spirit, I encourage you to discuss with others as you learn the material and work on the problem assignments. However, the work that you submit as your assignment must be your own and not a copy of someone else’s work. Identical scripts will be given a mark of zero and plagiarism will be dealt with severely. I encourage you to cite your references, citing books and other articles when they are used and acknowledging discussions with those who have helped you in your understanding and completion of the problem. This is good scientific practice.

Course Evaluation Information

The Department of Physics requires student assessment of all courses taught by the Department. These assessments provide essential feedback to faculty on their teaching by identifying both strengths and possible areas of improvement. In addition, annual student assessment of teaching provides part of the information used by the Department Tenure and Promotion Committee in evaluating the faculty member's contribution in the area of teaching. The Department's teaching evaluation questionnaire invites student response both through numerically quantifiable data, and written student comments. In conformity with University of Guelph Faculty Policy, the Department Tenure and Promotions Committee only considers comments signed by students. Your instructor will see all signed and unsigned comments after final grades are submitted. Written student comments may also be used in support of a nomination for internal and external teaching awards.

NOTE: No information will be passed on to the instructor until after the final grades have been submitted.

University Statements

COVID-19 Disclaimer

Please note that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may necessitate a revision of the format of course offerings and academic schedules. Any such changes will be announced via CourseLink and/or class email. All University-wide decisions will be posted on the COVID-19 website and circulated by email.  


The University will not normally require verification of illness (doctor's notes) for fall 2020 or winter 2021 semester courses.  However, requests for Academic Consideration may still require medical documentation as appropriate.

Email Communication

As per university regulations, all students are required to check their e-mail account regularly: e-mail is the official route of communication between the University and its students.

When You Cannot Meet a Course Requirement

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons please advise the course instructor (or designated person, such as a teaching assistant) in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. The grounds for Academic Consideration are detailed in the Undergraduate and Graduate Calendars.  

Drop Date

Students will have until the last day of classes to drop courses without academic penalty. The deadline to drop two-semester courses will be the last day of classes in the second semester. This applies to all students (undergraduate, graduate and diploma) except for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Associate Diploma in Veterinary Technology (conventional and alternative delivery) students. The regulations and procedures for course registration are available in their respective Academic Calendars. Undergraduate Calendar - Dropping Courses 

Copies of Out-of-class Assignments

Keep paper and/or other reliable back-up copies of all out-of-class assignments: you may be asked to resubmit work at any time.


The University promotes the full participation of students who experience disabilities in their academic programs. To that end, the provision of academic accommodation is a shared responsibility between the University and the student. When accommodations are needed, the student is required to first register with Student Accessibility Services (SAS). Documentation to substantiate the existence of a disability is required; however, interim accommodations may be possible while that process is underway. Accommodations are available for both permanent and temporary disabilities. It should be noted that common illnesses such as a cold or the flu do not constitute a disability. Use of the SAS Exam Centre requires students to book their exams at least 7 days in advance and not later than the 40th Class Day.

Academic Integrity

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity, and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community-faculty, staff, and students-to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring. University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff, and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that encourages academic integrity. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection. Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor. Undergraduate Calendar - Academic Misconduct 

Recording of Materials

Presentations that are made in relation to course work - including lectures - cannot be recorded or copied without the permission of the presenter, whether the instructor, a student, or guest lecturer. Material recorded with permission is restricted to use for that course unless further permission is granted.


The Academic Calendars are the source of information about the University of Guelph’s procedures, policies, and regulations that apply to undergraduate, graduate, and diploma programs. Academic Calendars