Accessibility statement

Particle & Nuclear Physics - PHY00037I

« Back to module search

  • Department: Physics
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Christian Diget
  • Credit value: 10 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Related modules

Pre-requisite modules

Co-requisite modules

Prohibited combinations

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2020-21

Module aims

This module covers atomic and subatomic quantum physics. Building on the material taught in Quantum & Atomic Physics II, the course extends understanding of atomic structure before moving on to particle physics and nuclear physics.

The module begins with particle physics where the goal is to give a simple overview of the standard model. The main properties of particles from their quark sub-structure to the simplest baryons and meson multiplets will be examined.

The module progresses onto nuclear physics and begins by examining aspects of two out of the four forces of nature. It examines first the mass and energy relationships of the atomic nucleus and the semi-empirical mass formula. Nuclear decay properties are then studied before moving onto nuclear reactions. The interactions of nucleons and the basic properties of the strong nuclear force are then examined culminating in the exploration of the simple shell model of the atomic nucleus.

Module learning outcomes

In Particle Physics, to:

  • Discuss the properties of the particles in the simplest baryon and meson multiplets.

  • Discuss the origin of the structure of the simplest baryon and meson multiplets.

  • Derive the main properties of particles from their quark sub-structure.

  • Explain which interactions in nature occur and which do not from knowledge of the conservation laws and the standard model.

  • Discuss the standard model, including interacting bosons (W,Z) and illustrate simple reactions using Feynman Diagrams.

In Nuclear Physics, to:

  • Define nuclear binding energy and be able to do simple calculations

  • Define the terms in the semi-empirical mass formula and be able to use it to explain the chart of the nuclides and perform calculations.

  • Define proton and neutron separation energy and carry out simple calculations

  • Explain the concept of driplines.

  • Deduce the Q-value equation for a nuclear reaction or decay process and carry out calculations based on the formulae.

  • Calculate the alpha-decay lifetime and explain its dependency on energy and other nuclear variables.

  • Define the concept of nuclear cross-section and relate this to a simple formula for the rate of nuclear reactions and be able to perform calculations using the formula.

  • Discuss the physics of the nuclear fission and fusion processes

  • Outline some of the basic properties of the nuclear force and indicate evidence for these

  • Discuss the concept of exchange particles and how their mass affects the range of the force

  • Outline experimental evidence for the nuclear shell model.

  • Know of and be able to use the basic rules of the simple single-particle shell model to predict ground state spins and parities of odd and odd-odd nuclei

  • Use the simple single-particle shell model to obtain configurations for low-lying excited states in nuclei.

Module content

Particle Physics

  • Standard Model concepts. Classification of particles: hadrons (baryons and mesons), leptons, exchange particles, and spins.
  • Brief outline of main interactions seen in nature: The Strong, Weak, Electromagnetic and Gravitational Interactions and their properties.
  • An introduction to conservation laws including spin, isospin, strong hypercharge and lepton number.

Nuclear Physics

  • Basic definitions and concepts: masses; radii; and nuclear binding energy.
  • Gross properties of nuclei: semi-empirical mass formula; nuclide chart; limits of stability; neutron/proton separation energies; and drip lines.
  • Unstable nuclei: decay and radioactive dating; kinematics and Q-value for alpha and beta decay; and gamma decay of excited nuclear states.
  • Quantum tunnelling for alpha-decay: derivation tunnelling probability and evaluation of the impact on alpha decay lifetimes.
  • Nuclear reactions: kinematics and notation; definition of types of reaction, elastic, inelastic, and capture; reaction cross-sections; and Q-value for reactions.
  • Evidence for shell structure in nuclei; introduction to the simple single-particle nuclear shell model and its use to predict ground state and excited state spins and parities, brief discussion of the regions where the shell model approach is valid and reasons for its failure.
  • Fission: physics of the fission process, prompt and delayed neutrons, fission and the liquid drop model, definitions of spontaneous, induced fission and activation energy.
  • Fusion: - Physics of nuclear fusion, particularly hydrogen fusion; and discussion of cross-sections and reaction rates.

Lecture notes

Students are expected to make their own notes from lectures. In addition, handouts are provided covering background material and material that is primarily complicated mathematics which takes time to write on the board and simply help the understanding of the physics.

Suggested preparation

This module follows on from the first part of the Quantum Physics II module that is taught in the autumn term. Familiarity with the material of this module, in addition to first year lecture material on Quantum Physics is sufficient preparation.

Please note - in addition to pre-requisites listed above, students should also have taken PHY00036I or PHY00039I.


Task Length % of module mark
24 hour open exam
Particle & Nuclear Physics
N/A 80
Particle & Nuclear Physics Assignment
N/A 20

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
24 hour open exam
Particle & Nuclear Physics
N/A 80
Particle & Nuclear Physics Assignment
N/A 20

Module feedback

Physics Practice Questions (PPQs) - You will receive the marked scripts via your pigeon holes. Feedback solutions will be provided on the VLE or by other equivalent means from your lecturer. As feedback solutions are provided, normally detailed comments will not be written on your returned work, although markers will indicate where you have lost marks or made mistakes. You should use your returned scripts in conjunction with the feedback solutions.

Exams - You will receive the marks for the individual exams from eVision. Detailed model answers will be provided on the intranet. You should discuss your performance with your supervisor.

Advice on academic progress - Individual meetings with supervisor will take place where you can discuss your academic progress in detail.

Indicative reading

Eisberg R M & Resnick R; Quantum Physics of Atoms, Molecules, Solids, Nuclei and Particles (Wiley)*** (Atomic Physics/Quantum Mechanics)

Krane K S: Introductory nuclear physics (Wiley) *** (Nuclear Physics)

Hughes I S: Elementary particles (Cambridge) *** (Particle Physics)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students