Light and Matter

Module code: PA1120
Module co-ordinator: Professor Richard Willingale

In this module you will study the physics of heat (thermodynamics) and the physics of light (optics). We will discuss thermal equilibrium and how an absolute temperature scale can be defined in terms of the properties of simple gasses. We will investigate heat, work, entropy and the first and second laws of thermodynamics – the physics behind machines from refrigerators to jet engines.

We will also explore the basic properties of light and geometric optics – the description of light propagation in terms of rays. We will study wave effects such as interference and diffraction, and examine applications such as diffraction gratings.

Topics covered


  • 16 hours of lectures
  • 4 hours of seminars
  • 10 hours of practicals/workshops
  • 120 hours of guided independent study


  • Coursework (30%)
  • Exam, 2 hours (70%)