67063 - Materials Chemistry and Physical Chemistry Laboratory

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2022/2023

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 a brief introduction will be given 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


- Elementary functions: powers, roots, trigonometric, exponential and logarithmic functions. Solution of second degree algebraic equations. Complex numbers. Vectors. Basic knowledge of differential and integral calculus for functions of a real variable.
(Teaching activity: Mathematics with exercises)

- Knowledge of the main physical parameters and the relations that link them; main units of measurement.
(Teaching activity: Physics with exercises)

- Basic properties of the elements. Electronegativity. Concept of solution and mole fraction. Calculations related to solution dilution.
(Teaching activity: General and Inorganic Chemistry with Laboratory)



The course is divided into two parts lectured by Prof. I. Rivalta (A, Theory) and by Dr. T. Salzillo (B, Laboratory). The two parts are lectured simultaneously during the semester. There are no intermediate tests. The content of the program concerns:

Part (A), 4 CFU:

  • Condensed states of matter, qualitative description of their structure and main properties in terms of order of molecular organizations. Inter-molecular (electrostatic, induction, dispersion) and inter-particle (colloidal) forces and effects on matter aggregation states.
  • Main transport phenomena and diffusion equations.
  • Solid systems and crystals: structuring and packing. Mechanical properties of solids (Young's modulus) and introduction to optical properties.
  • Light-matter interactions (scattering and absorption). X-ray diffraction and its applications. Bragg's law. X-ray spectra of monocrystals and powders. Fundamentals of electronic spectroscopy.
  • Liquids, glasses, liquid crystals, colloids and surfactants. Phase transitions, metastability and glassy state. Porous and nanoconfined systems.
  • Relation between microscopic and macroscopic properties: outline of computer modeling and simulation with examples.
  • Introduction to kinetics

    Part (B), 5 CFU:

    Laboratory sessions concerning:
  • 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)  


Part (A)

The lecture notes (as saved by the electronic board) will be published on the IOL online system. The material distributed is more than enough to pass the exam for the students following the lectures.

P.W. Atkins, J. de Paula, Physical Chemistry, Zanichelli.

Texts for further information will be indicated to those interested.

Part (B)

P.W. Atkins, Elements of Physical Chemistry, Zanichelli, Bologna, 2000. Lecture notes and additional teaching 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

For the final exam (not intermediate tests are required), registration through AlmaEsami is required, following the established deadlines.

The exam aims the assessment of the teaching objectives, both for the theory (part A) and the laboratory (part B) parts, according to the following lines:

Part (A)

The essential objectives being verified are:

To know the main properties and molecular organizations of advanced materials described in the course and their applications.
To know the classification of the phases of the matter and of the phase transitions. Knowing how to present relevant examples.
To know the investigation techniques based on optical spectroscopy (in particular X-rays) and their application to materials.
To know the main types of interaction between molecules and particles.
To know the basic elements of computer simulation techniques

The exam for part A consists of a written test (90 minutes) which involves the preparation of three open questions (with a score of 10/30 each) to be chosen among four proposals. Auxiliary tools are not allowed.

Part (B)

The evaluation of the students will be based on 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.
  3. Written exam (90 minutes) which provides for the solution of a kinetic problem. Auxiliary tools are not allowed.

The final grade is therefore given by a global evaluation based on the average of the grades between part (A) and part (B), computed as the average between the written test and the Laboratory reports. To obtain the passing mark (18/30) the grade of each test cannot be lower than 16/30. The evaluation of the written tests and laboratory reports, once acquired, remain valid without time limits. There are not oral tests.

Teaching tools

Part (A)

Digital blackboard with videoprojector, online platforms for on-the-fly assessments.

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.


Students with learning or other types of disabilities are invited to contact the Servizio Studenti con Disabilità e DSA of the University of Bologna, the reference teacher of the Department, or the course teacher to establish appropriate processes concerning learning material and classroom adjustments.


Considering the types of activities and teaching methods adopted, the attendance of this training activity requires all students to carry out e-learning modules 1 and 2 [https://www.unibo.it/it/servizi-e -opportunities / health-and-assistance / health-and-safety / safety-and-health-in-places-of-study-and-training] and participation in module 3 for specific training on safety and health in places of study. Information on dates and methods of attendance of module 3 can be found in the specific section of the course program website.

Office hours

See the website of Ivan Rivalta

See the website of Tommaso Salzillo