67063 - Materials Chemistry and Physical Chemistry Laboratory

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2013/2014

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student will be able to rationalize in molecular terms the properties of various materials (e.g. liquid crystals, micelles, glasses, polymers, nanoporous materials). The student will also be introduced to various characterization techniques (optical, calorimetric, Xray) and to computer simulation techniques.

The aim of the laboratory part is to acquaint the students with the practice of experimental physical chemistry, to illustrate the experimental aspects of some of the topics treated theoretically in the Physical Chemistry and Physical Chemistry of Materials lecture course and to lead to their better understanding. The following objectives will be pursued: (1) to apply the principles of thermodynamics, kinetics and spectroscopy, presented in the physical chemistry lecture courses, in some illustrative experiments; (2) to gain familiarity with a variety of physico-chemical measurement techniques and equipments; (3) to develop experimental skills and the ability to work independently; (4) to train students to observe experiments, keep records of the observations made and analyse the data critically; (5) to teach students to present experimental results and write reports clearly, concisely and consistently.

Course contents

 The course consists of two parts that will be taught by Prof. C. Zannoni (A - Theory) and by Prof. A. Arcioni (B - Laboratory).

Part (A)

The condensed states of matter and the qualitative description of their structure and main properties in terms of order. Crystals and their main optical (birefringence) and mechanical properties (Young modulus). Liquids. Liquid crystals and their applications: nematic (features and working principle of a twisted nematic LCD). Smectics (classification in A,B..; properties). Discotic (columnar phases and molecular wires). Lyotropic phases. Micelles, bilayers, liposomes. Polymers. Colloids.

Phase transitions and their classification (Ehrenfest and Landau-deGennes).Some applications of supercritical solvents. Metastability  and glassy state. Porous and nanoconfined systems. Artificial zeolites (e.g. MCM41): properties and preparation via templating from self assembled micelles and lyotropic systems.

Xray diffraction and its applications. Bragg's law. Single crystal and polycrystalline powder spectra. X-ray spectra of glasses, polymers and amorphous materials. SAXS.

Forces between molecules and colloidal particles. Hard spheres, Lennard-Jones, anisotropic empirical potentials. Introduction to electrostatic interactions (charge, dipole, quadrupole). Induction and dispersion forces. Effects of the type and range of interactions on the aggregation states of matter and on colloids. Relative magnitude of the various type of interactions in solution. Stability of colloidal suspensions. DLVO theory.

Connection between microscopic, molecular, and macroscopic properties. A brief introduction to computer simulation techniques with examples of their applications.

Part (B)

Experiments in the lab:

- Solution calorimetry.

- Phase diagram of a binary solid-liquid system.

- Capillary kinematic viscosimetry and rotational viscosimetry.

- Construction and functioning of a twisted nematic liquid crystal display.

- Surface tension of pure liquids and solutions: static (plate, ring) and dynamical (maximum bubble pressure) measurement techniques.

- Kinetics: back-isomerization of a photochromic compound followed by spectrophotometry.


Part (A) A printed copy of the slides will be made available to the students before each group of lectures
Part (B)

P.W. Atkins, Elementi di Chimica Fisica, Zanichelli, Bologna, 2000.

Lecture notes and additional educational material.

Teaching methods

Part (A)
Front lectures
Part (B)

Lectures in the classroom and practice in the laboratories. The results obtained in each experiment are discussed in the lab and in the classroom; each student is then requested to write a short report in his/her lab notebook.

Attendance in the lab is mandatory

Assessment methods

The final exam has the purpose  of assessing the reaching of the teaching objectives regarding theory (part A) and lab (part B)

Part (A)

The essential objectives are:

A knowledge of the principal properties and molecular organizations of the advanced materials described in the course and of their applications.

A knowledge of the classification of phases and phase transitions, and being able to show examples of phase transitions and glass transitions.

A knowledge of the Xray  technique for the characterization of materials and its application to crystalline and non crystalline materials.

Familiarity with the main examples of interaction forces between molecules and between colloidal particles and with their relation with the stability of colloidal suspensions.

Awareness of the basic elements of computer simulation methods.

The exam for part (A) consists of a short written essay on a subject chosen by the student between two proposed ones.

Part (B)

The evaluation of the students will be made on the basis of two components:

1. Lab notebook. Each report in the lab notebook will be graded based on the following criteria: organization, understanding of the experiment, clearness, completeness, readability and internal coherence.

2. Global laboratory skills. In each experiment the level of performance will be assessed considering care on preparation and execution of the experiment, housekeeping, attendance and punctuality.

The final vote for the course is defined with an oral exam which can be taken after a positive outcome of the written theory part (A) and of the lab part (B) . The vote will keep into account both the results of (A) and (B) and of the oral exam.

Teaching tools

Part (A) blackboard and videoprojector. Powerpoint slides.

Part (B)

The didactical activities in the classroom are supported by the use of overhead projector and blackboard. All the material employed during the lessons is made available to the students. The experimental work is carried out in the practical laboratories and requires the assignment of an instrumental working place and of all the experimental material employed in the practical work.

Office hours

See the website of Claudio Zannoni

See the website of Alberto Arcioni