PHYS2110 Quantum Physics and Laboratory

Students should only enrol into PHYS2030 if they have already completed PHYS2040.
All others should enrol into PHYS2110 Quantum Physics and Laboratory in 2013.

Quantum Physics

  • Level 2 Physics course
  • Offered every year, Session 1

See Also Lecture notes, Assignments, tutorial questions etc.

stmBrief Syllabus:

The 'breakdown' of Classical Physics; Photoelectric Effect, Compton Effect; Bragg Equation; Wave-functions; Uncertainty Principle; Schrödinger Equation; solutions for simple potentials; Models of the atom (Thomson, Rutherford, Bohr); Quantum numbers; Pauli Exclusion Principle; electron spin.

Assumed Knowledge:

The course assumes familiarity with first year physics, e.g. PHYS1002 or PHYS1221 or PHYS1231 or PHYS1241; and first year mathematics, e.g. MATH1231 or MATH1241.

Course Goals:

Quantum Physics underpins all aspects of modern life. This course aims to provide students with an introduction to the principles and behaviour of Quantum systems. Specific topics include:

  • A discussion of the crucial experiments in the early 1900s which led to the introduction of the concept of photons;
  • The fundamental wave-like and particle-like properties of Nature;
  • The description of the behaviour of electrons, neutrons etc in terms of a wave-function and its relationship to the probabilistic picture of Nature; Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle;
  • The use of Schrödinger's equation to deduce the energy of electrons in simple potentials e.g. "particle in a box"; step-up and step-down potentials, tunneling phenomena;
  • The quest to understand the structure of the atom, leading to Bohr's 3 postulates; application to the Hydrogen atom;
  • The use of 'quantum numbers' to describe the H atom;
  • Pauli's Exclusion Principle;
  • The importance of angular momentum and its 'space quantization'; the concept of 'electron spin'.
  • Modern examples of quantum mechanics including quantum devices, scanning tunneling microscopy, NMR, etc.

Learning Objectives

At the end of the course all students should be able to

  • understand and explain at least three experimental results which lead to the overthrow of some of the concepts of classical physics
  • explain and apply the new concepts and formalism which were introduced to replace classical physics
  • use the formalism of quantum mechanics to solve simple problems, including applications to the hydrogen atom, orbital and spin angular momentum, atomic spectra, etc
  • discuss the conceptual problems of quantum mechanics, including the measurement problem, entanglement and non-locality.

Why is Quantum Physics important?

In 1982, Heinz R. Pagels wrote "When the history of this century is written, we shall see that political events - in spite of their immense cost in human lives and money - will NOT be the most influential events. Instead, the main event will be the first human contact with the invisible quantum world and the subsequent biological and computer revolutions".

 Quantum Physics provides the foundation for virtually all of modern life (Computer chips, CD players, lasers, nanotechnology, biology .).  Some familiarity with Quantum Physics (or at least some exposure to it) is essential for any modern scientist, 'applied',  'fundamental' or anywhere in between.

The course is strongly recommended as groundwork for a number of 3rd year courses including PHYS3010 & 3210 Quantum Mechanics, PHYS3080 Solid State Physics and PHYS3160 Astrophysics.

How to succeed - Strategies for Learning.

We all agree that your theory is crazy – but is it crazy enough ?” – Neils Bohr.

Most students find aspects of this subject confusing and perhaps even disturbing, since it basically represents the overthrowing of the Classical Physics learnt at School and First-Year University. Furthermore, many parts of the course are wildly counter-intuitive, making a mockery of our 'Common Sense'. We grow up in a macroscopic world and our everyday experiences seem to be deterministic, in the Cartesian sense.  However, the consequences of Quantum Physics are all around us and, as Richard Feynman said, "Things on a very small scale behave like nothing you have any direct experience about". This course will provide both an introduction to this strange quantum world and the basic tools necessary if one wishes to pursue these studies. At this level, it is important to focus on the basic principles and not get 'hung-up' on the abstract, philosophical or metaphysical questions (there are plenty of these later). Nor should the student get too 'hung-up' on the mathematics (Quantum Physics can get very mathematical at times but this course will try to avoid this where possible).

Some further tips for successful learning include:

  1. Do not hesitate to ask questions during lectures. There is no such thing as a silly or wrong question. While your questions are helpful for you, they are also helpful for other students (you’ll often find other students in your class who have the same question but are too shy to ask), and they are helpful for the lecturer because they allow him/her to gauge whether they are getting the material across effectively or not.
  2. Considerable time should be spent ‘thinking’ about the subject, this may seem kind of obvious, but it goes much deeper than simply reviewing notes, reading resources or trying to memorize the various equations. You should try to spend some time after each lecture actively thinking about what you have learned. An ideal way to do this is to ask yourself questions such as “How does this fit into my existing knowledge of physics and my experience of how the world works?”, “Does this make sense?”, “How would I explain this to someone else?”, “Can I find some logical inconsistency or conflict that emerges from how I currently understand what I’ve learned?” (in which case you should aim to figure out and resolve this conflict), “What parts of what I’ve learned do I not fully understand?”, etc. In doing this, you may want to review your notes or books, but you should not see this as normal note-review or study (i.e. you shouldn’t do this by sitting there staring at your notes), to give an analogy, it should be more like being a Zen monk contemplating the sound of one hand clapping.
  3. Students should also try to do as many problems as possible – just doing the assignments is usually not enough. A variety of suggested tutorial problems will be given during the course, and some will be discussed during lectures. However, as individual students, you can help yourself by seeking out problems that make you confront aspects of the course that you least understand, just doing the easy questions will not help you very much. Forming small study groups to discuss the course material and work together on tutorial problems is highly encouraged, this approach will help you learn better by teaching each other (n.b. care should be taken that this doesn’t cross over to plagiarism for assignments – make sure you know the rules). Plagiarism guidelines can be found here.
  4. You should work throughout the course on compiling your own concise set of revision notes. A good way to do this is to write a brief review after each lecture. You should also add lessons learned in doing tutorial questions and from thinking about the lectures to these revision notes.

Finally, remember, don’t focus on just memorising all the equations (a formula sheet will be attached to the exam paper) – concentrate on understanding the physics instead, and the mathematical aspects should then follow naturally.



R. Eisberg and R. Resnick, Quantum Physics of Atoms, Molecules, Solids, Nuclei and Particles (2nd Edition)

Serway, Moses and Moyer, Modern Physics, 3rd ed. Thomson/Brooks Cole.

Additional References

S.T. Thornton & Andrew Rex, Modern Physics (3rd Ed)

K. Krane, Modern Physics, (2nd Edition)

J.W. Rohlf, Modern Physics from a to Zo, 1st edition (Wiley).

D.J. Griffiths, Introduction to Quantum Mechanics

Information on student support services may be found on the School website here.

Detailed Syllabus



Photoelectric Effect, Compton Effect, Davisson-Germer experiment, de Broglie waves, wave-particle duality

Schrödinger Equation

Postulates of quantum mechanics, Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, eigenvalues and eigenstates, free particle solution

Simple Applications

Infinite potential well, finite potential well, barriers and steps, tunneling, simple harmonic oscillator in one-dimension

Hydrogen Atom

Rutherford scattering, Bohr model of atom, central field solution, quantum numbers, probability density, expectation values.

Angular Momentum

vector diagrams, space quantization, interaction with a magnetic field (Zeeman effect). Stern-Gerlach experiment, spin angular momentum.


Pauli exclusion principle. Atomic spectra.


Session: 1

  • 3 units of credit for PHYS2030
  • 6 units of credit for PHYS2110


The comparison of experiment with hypothesis lies at the very core of the Scientific Method, and nowhere are such comparisons more important than in Physics.

This course provides an introduction to some of the experimental techniques used in physics research. It also provides experience in making accurate measurements and in estimating their reliability, skills that are important in any experimental discipline.

The experiments cover a wide range of techniques including X-ray diffraction, radioactive decay and nuclear magnetic resonance.

Assumed knowledge:

  • Any first year physics subject

PHYS2110 students must pass both the Laboratory component and the Quantum Physics component independently in order to pass the entire course.


  • Experimental investigations in a range of areas including: X-ray diffraction, work function, semiconductor bandgap, Hall effect, carrier lifetimes, nuclear magnetic resonance, magnetic properties of materials.

Further Information

For more information about PHYS2110 and PHYS2030 Laboratory contact:

last updated 1st March2012