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Introduction to Physical Chemistry

University of Manchester via Coursera


Chemical reactions underpin the production of pretty much everything in our modern world. But, what is the driving force behind reactions? Why do some reactions occur over geological time scales whilst others are so fast that we need femtosecond-pulsed lasers to study them? Ultimately, what is going on at the atomic level? Discover the answers to such fundamental questions and more on this course in introductory physical chemistry.

The course covers the key concepts of three of the principal topics in first-year undergraduate physical chemistry: thermodynamics, kinetics and quantum mechanics. These three topics cover whether or not reactions occur, how fast they go and what is actually going on at the sub-atomic scale.


  • Thermodynamics I
    • This module explores thermodynamic definitions, the zeroth law of thermodynamics and temperature, the first law of thermodynamics and enthalpy, reversible expansion, and heat capacity.
  • Thermodynamics II
    • This module explores the second law of thermodynamics and entropy, the second law of thermodynamics and spontaneity, the second law of thermodynamics and equilibrium, the third law of thermodynamics and absolute entropy, and Hess' Law.
  • Virtual Lab 1: Thermodynamics
    • This lab allows you to further explore thermodynamics.
  • Chemical Kinetics I
    • This module explores the rate of reaction, stoichiometry and order, zero order reactions, first order reactions, second order reactions, determination of reaction order, and effect of temperature on reaction rate.
  • Chemical Kinetics II
    • This module explores complex reactions, steady-state approximation, and catalysis.
  • Virtual Lab 2: Kinetics
    • This lab allows you to further explore kinetics.
  • Quantum Chemistry I
    • This module explores Planck's quantum of energy, particle nature of light, wave nature of matter, Heissenberg's uncertainty principle, the Schrödinger equation, free particle & the particle in a box, Born's interpretation of the wavefunction, and normalisation of the wavefunction.
  • Virtual Lab 3: Particle in a Box
    • This experiment involves the visible absorption spectra of dyes.
  • Quantum Chemistry II
    • This module explores hydrogen atoms, hydrogen atom quantum numbers, radial and angular solutions for hydrogenic atoms, and energy levels for hydrogenic atoms.
  • Virtual Lab 4: Hydrogen Emission Spectroscopy
    • This lab allows you to further explore quantum chemistry.

Taught by

Patrick O'Malley, Michael Anderson and Jonathan Agger


4.1 rating, based on 11 Class Central reviews

4.7 rating at Coursera based on 686 ratings

Start your review of Introduction to Physical Chemistry

  • Greg Chapman
    This course covers the sort of thermodynamics and kinetics that I got in the second semester of general chemistry, where I was expecting a somewhat more in depth and rigorous treatment akin to an upper division course as physical chemistry would be in a US university. That might be a difference in course naming between US and UK institutions, or perhaps the instructors toned the course down for Coursera.

    I wasn't that impressed with the content delivery. Can you read slides? Awesome, so can the professor. The virtual labs were actually kind of cool though. I figured I could pick up the material at the level I was interested in by working through a textbook on my own.
  • Anonymous
    Fascinating course covering Thermodynamics, Chemical Kinetics and Introductory Quantum Mechanics respectively. I found the course quite difficult and admittedly was unable to finish as my background was not extensive enough to handle the Quantum Mechanics section.
    This course requires a background in Single-Variable Calculus, some intuition related to differential equations and partial derivatives (solely for the QM section) and a strong background in basic chemistry.

    I would not mind reattempting this course when I get further into my studies, and would definitely recommend it for anyone with the above background.
  • Mary Roodnitsky
    This is a very hard course for somebody without a good grasp in both science and math. I have completed Algebra II, and Physical Science, and had to do a lot of catching up in the science aspect to understand the bare minimum. With the math, I simply trust that they're correct when they discuss calculus, but I'm doing fine with a simple understanding of Algebra II. I wish the instructor would quickly review topic we're supposed to know, however. I hope this course prepares me for my AP Chemistry class down the road, but I probably should've taken an easier course to begin with, considering I have basically no knowledge of highschool science. (I'm going to be a freshman in the fall.)
  • Peter M Abraham
    Very math intensive without providing a foundation for the math or some of the terminology. Topic sounds interesting from the introduction video. However, once you get into the lectures and here formula over formula and math results over math results without being given the foundation for terminology such as moles, molarity, and some of the other terms, it is very hard to keep up let have your attention sustained (unless you love math).
  • Anonymous
    Excellent introduction to university physical chemistry.
    A must for anybody studying or thinking of studying chemistry baseed subjects at university. Lots of novel material such as virtual labs and a chance to test your knowledge along side campus students.
    Teaching is first class.
  • Anonymous
    this a an excellent course. I am taking chemistry at university next year and this course really fired me up.
    The teaching of difficult concepts such as quantum mechanics is wonderfully clear and the virtual labs are great fun.
  • Anonymous
    If you have a basic chemistry knowledge plus a working knowledge of calculus then this course is an excellent intro to physical chemistry. The explanations of concepts is very clear particulay the quantum chemistry bit.
  • Anonymous
    This is a great course for getting to grips with physical chemistry.
    You'll need a basic chemistry knowledge with some calculus.
    The explanations especially in the quantum chemistry section are superb and the virtual labs make the course very interactive.
  • Anonymous
    While difficult I found this course the best introduction to kinetics, thermodynamics and quantum chemistry that you can find. Makes most textbooks feel,totally outmoded and unclear.
  • Erasmia Birmpila

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