Thermal Physics (PHYS*2240)

Code and section: PHYS*2240*01

Term: Fall 2023


General Information

University of Guelph
Department of Physics
PHYS*2240 – Thermal Physics
Fall 2023

For Course Instructor, Class Time and Location, please check CourseLink.

Calendar Description

PHYS*2240  Thermal Physics  Fall Only  (LEC: 3)  [0.50]  
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(s): (1 of IPS*1510, MATH*1210, MATH*2080), (IPS*1500 or PHYS*1080)  
Restriction(s): CHEM*2820  
Department(s): Department of Physics  
Location(s): Guelph  


Course Materials

Required Text

“Concepts in Thermal Physics” (Second Edition), S. J. Blundell and K. M. Blundell, Oxford University Press, 2010 (ISBN 978-0-19-956210-7)


  1. “An introduction to Thermal Physics”, D. V. Schroeder, Addison Wesley Longman, 2000. (ISBN 0-201-38027-7)
  2. “Thermal Physics” (2nd Edition), C.B.P. Finn, Nelson Thornes, 1993. (ISBN 0-7487-4379-0)
  3. “Equilibrium Thermodynamics” (Third Edition), C.J. Adkins, Cambridge University Press, 1983. (ISBN 0-521-27456-7)



Assessment Weight
Participation 5%
Computation 10%
Assignments 25%
Mid-term 25%
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

You are encouraged to discuss with others as you learn the material and work on the assignments. However, the work you submit must be your own (your understanding written in your own way) and not a copy of someone else's work.

Medical Certificate

Not generally required. However, if you miss a TEST or EXAM, then you should see your College Counselor and get a note from him/her.


University Policies

Academic Consideration

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the Undergraduate Calendar for information on regulations and procedures for academic consideration.

Academic Misconduct

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 discourages misconduct. 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.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the Undergraduate Calendar.


The University of Guelph is committed to creating a barrier-free environment. Providing services for students is a shared responsibility among students, faculty and administrators. This relationship is based on respect of individual rights, the dignity of the individual and the University community’s shared commitment to an open and supportive learning environment. Students requiring service or accommodation, whether due to an identified, ongoing disability or a short-term disability should contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) as soon as possible.

E-mail 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.

Course Evaluation

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 areas of improvement. In addition, student assessments provide part of the information used by the Department Tenure and Promotion Committee in evaluating the faculty member’s contributions in the area of teaching. You are therefore encouraged to take the evaluation procedures seriously, and to provide feedback about this course and its instructor.

Drop date

The last date to drop one-semester courses, without academic penalty, is 1 December 2023. For regulations and procedures for Dropping Courses, see the Undergraduate Calendar.