Module code: PHY2067

Module provider


Module Leader

CATFORD WN Prof (Physics)

Number of Credits


ECT Credits



FHEQ Level 5

JACs code


Module cap (Maximum number of students)


Module Availability

Semester 2

Overall student workload

Independent Study Hours: 84

Lecture Hours: 23

Tutorial Hours: 10

Laboratory Hours: 40

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Practical based assessment LABORATORY DIARY & REPORT/PRESENTATION 30%

Alternative Assessment

The laboratory Diary and Report/Presentation Mark may be assessed by a condensed programme of laboratory work, with written laboratory report/presentation.

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module overview

The general properties of nuclei and radioactivity are studied, with an introduction to the deeper structure of elementary particles and the Standard Model. The nuclear physics includes alpha- and beta- and gamma-ray decay, nuclear fission and models of nuclear structure. The high energy physics includes the quark structure of hadrons, CPT conservation and CP violation and the impact of conservation rules on simple reactions of elementary particles.

Module aims

give a basic understanding of why some nuclei are stable and others are radioactive and why they decay in the ways that they do.

introduce the concept of parity and how this quantum number, along with conservation of angular momentum, affects what physical processes will occur at the subatomic level.

give a general understanding of the different families of elementary particles believed to exist according to the Standard Model and how the quarks combine to form mesons and baryons.

introduce the effects of conservation rules (CPT, lepton number, baryon number, strangeness and charm…) on the interactions and reactions of elementary particles.

explain how to apply the understanding of nuclear and subnuclear processes to the solution of simple numerical problems and other problems related to nuclear and elementary particle reactions and decays.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
Understand the trends in binding energy of nuclei across the nuclear chart C
Calculate energies of particles emitted in nuclear decay processes C
Calculate and make deductions about rates of decay for combined radioactivities C
Predict which decay processes can be expected to dominate for particular nuclei and states C
Predict the spins and parities of ground states and low-lying excited states in simple nuclei C
Calculate nuclear reaction Q-values and related quantities C
Describe the basic processes determining the operation of nuclear fission reactors K
Identify the families of elementary particles according to the Standard Model K
Describe fundamental interactions in terms of boson exchange K
Describe the quark structure of mesons and hadrons K
Predict the products of elementary particle reactions by the application of conservation principles C
Evaluate the impact of elementary particle interactions on the early evolution of the Universe. C

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Module content

Indicative content includes:

Lecture Course:

Eleven weeks, generally comprising two hours of lectures and a one-hour examples class.

1. Basic Properties of Nuclei

Introduction, notation, review of angular momentum and potential wells in 3D in quantum mechanics, nuclear binding energy, semi-empirical mass formula.

2. Radioactive Decay

Exponential decay law, isotope production, secular and transient equilibrium, forms of radioactivity.

3. Alpha and Gamma Decay

Energetics of alpha-particle decay, barrier penetration model, Geiger-Nuttall rule, gamma-ray production and multipolarities, Weisskopf estimates, role of angular momentum and parity.

4. Beta Decay and Electron Capture

Q-values for beta decay, Fermi theory, Fermi and Gamow-Teller decays, role of angular momentum and parity, electron capture, selection rules.

5. Nuclear Models

Nuclear mean field, shell model, spin-orbit splitting, shell model configurations for nuclear ground states, configurations and spins for low-lying excited levels.

6. Nuclear Reactions

Types of nuclear reaction, centre of mass frame, Q-values and threshold energies, compound nuclear reactions, resonance reactions.

7. Fission and Reactors

Fission barriers, physics of fission, energy release and partitioning in fission, neutron induced fission, chain reaction, nuclear reactors, four-factor formula and extensions for losses.

8. Quark Structure of Nucleons and Mesons

Pions as carriers of the nuclear force, pion properties, conservation rules in particle decay, isospin, parity, CPT conservation, time reversal invariance, kaons, strangeness, quark basis for meson structure, CP violation in K0 decay.

9. Bosons, Leptons and Quarks

Z0 and W± properties, field particles, lepton families, conservation rules (energy, angular momentum, parity, baryon number, lepton number, isospin, strangeness and charm), quark model of mesons and baryons, multiplets using three generations of quarks, extension to include charm.

10. The Standard Model and Beyond

Particle decays in the quark model, J/psi decays, Weinberg angle, neutrino mass and flavour oscillations, search for the Higgs, particle physics effects in shaping in the early universe.

11. Review and Key Points

Summary of the whole course with comments, perspectives and examples of key concepts and points, numerical examples.

Experimental Laboratory:

Five laboratory sessions of 4 hours, in the radiation laboratory. Two two-week experiments and a one-week experiment. Experiments are designed to study the properties of various kinds of radiation and the methods for detecting them, including the spectroscopy (energy measurement) and absorption properties of alpha-, beta-, gamma, positron and x-radiation and neutrons

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

equip students with subject knowledge

develop skills in applying subject knowledge to physical situations

develop laboratory practical skills

develop scientific writing skills


The learning and teaching methods include:

33h of lectures and tutorials as 3h/week x 11 weeks

20h of laboratory work consisting of two 2-week experiments and one 1-week experiment

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate

recall of subject knowledge

ability to apply subject knowledge to unseen problems

ability to conduct laboratory experiments

communication of scientific ideas


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

An examination of 1.5h with 2 questions to be attempted from 3

marking the laboratory diary

a laboratory report or presentation mark


Formative assessment and feedback

Verbal feedback is given in the weekly tutorial sessions.  Written feedback is given through the laboratory diary marking.


Reading list


Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2017/8 academic year.