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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Physics and Astronomy : Undergraduate (School of Physics and Astronomy)

Undergraduate Course: Physics of Extreme Environments (PHYS11066)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Physics and Astronomy CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Year 5 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryMost of the normal matter in the universe is contained in stars, planets and other massive objects, subjected to crushing pressure and high temperature. Such conditions also occur during explosions and impacts, and in nuclear energy systems. In addition, the limits of the survival of life at extreme conditions, such as, in the deep oceans and on other worlds, remains of central interest.

This course covers the nature of high-pressure and high-temperature phenomena and their origin in basic physical principles, and focuses on how new physics emerges at extreme conditions, such as under very high pressure, very high or low temperature, and at high atomic density.

The course combines principles from thermodynamics, condensed matter physics, plasma physics, astrophysics, and mechanics to understand how pressure and temperature generate unusual states of matter, crystallize exotic structures, form shock waves, produce energy via nuclear fusion, and lead to exotic requirements for life (in a microbiological context).

PoEE will discuss the transformation of simple materials subjected to extreme conditions, high-pressure crystal structures, the nature of molecules at high density, plasmas and electronic transformations, and conditions for life under extremes.
Course description * Simple solids under hydrostatic compression
* Nonlinear elasticity
* Solid-solid phase transitions; crystal structures of high-pressure phases; coordination, bonding changes
* Thermodynamics of phase transitions; Clausius-Clapeyron relation; Enthalpy and Gibbs energy criteria
* Insulator-metal transitions; high-pressure electrides
* Molecules at high density; ordering; polymerization
* Thermal effects from absolute zero to high temperature
* Melting; liquids at high density; normal vs. re-entrant melting curves
* Shock waves; Rankine-Hugoniot equations
* The plasma state; ionization; degenerate matter
* Practical equations-of-state
* Extreme life from extremophiles to astrobiology
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Thermal Physics (PHYS09061)
It is RECOMMENDED that students have passed Solid State Physics (PHYS10095) AND Introduction to Condensed Matter Physics (PHYS10099)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 12, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 6, Online Activities 2, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 2, Summative Assessment Hours 3, Revision Session Hours 3, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 70 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 50 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 20% oral assignment
30% written assignment
50% Degree Examination
All components are mandatory to pass the course.
Feedback Not entered
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)2:00
Resit Exam Diet (August)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of extreme conditions in a thermodynamic framework.
  2. Apply selected topics in thermodynamics, solid state, condensed matter, and plasma physics to understand the behaviour of matter at these conditions.
  3. Draw and interpret phase diagrams of simple materials over large range of conditions.
  4. Discuss the physics of phase diagrams, shock waves, nuclear fusion, molecular matter at extremes, atomic structures at high density, compressive behaviour of matter.
  5. Understand relevant applications ranging from astrobiology to energy systems.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information Total Hours: 100
(Lecture Hours 12, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 6, Online Activities 2, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 2, Summative Assessment Hours 3, Revision Session Hours 3, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 70)
Course organiserDr Stewart McWilliams
Tel: (0131 6)50 5273
Course secretaryMs Dipti Dineshwar
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