FYS2160 – Thermodynamics and statistical physics

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

The course introduces the student to statistical mechanics and thermodynamics. Statistical mechanics is the microscopic foundation of thermodynamics. The student is introduced to the fundamental concepts of microscopic many-particle systems and how they are connected to the macroscopic concepts of thermodynamics. The theories are applied to a range of systems like gases, liquids, mixtures and solids and how these are used in materials science, chemistry, biology, geoscience and technology. The student learns to build models based on interactions between microscopic particles and find the collective, macroscopic behavior of many particles. The models are studied using simple, analytical theory, numerical models, molecular dynamics, Monte Carlo methods and experimental data.

Learning outcome

After completing this course:

  • you can master basic statistical methods and concepts like probability, random variables, expected value, variance, estimators and common probability distributions; you can apply methods of combinatorics to statistical problems
  • you can construct models to analyze simple systems in the microcanonical, canonical and grand canonical ensembles; you master the use the models for spin systems, ideal gas, the Einstein crystal and know their applications; you know how the models can be used to describe systems with realistic interactions.
  • you master the relation between microscopic and macroscopic description through statistical mechanics; know and can apply the laws of thermodynamics and principles of free energy; describe thermodynamic processes and heat engines and master the use of the chemical potential to describe diffusive equilibrium, phase equilibrium and chemical processes.
  • you master the statistical mechanical description of Fermi- and Bose- statistics for electron-, photon- and fonon- gases; you know the Fermi energy and can use the density of states to find particle number and energy analytically and numerically.
  • you have training in finding the most important interactions in a system, formulate simplified models and analyse the macroscopic behavior using theoretical and numerical methods with special emphasis on Monte Carlo methods and molecular dynamics.
  • You know of applications of statistical mechanics and thermodynamics in other disciplines like materials science, chemistry and biology.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

In addition to fulfilling the Higher Education Entrance Qualification, applicants have to meet the following special admission requirements:

  • Mathematics R1 (or Mathematics S1 and S2) + R2

And in addition one of these:

  • Physics (1+2)
  • Chemistry (1+2)
  • Biology (1+2)
  • Information technology (1+2)
  • Geosciences (1+2)
  • Technology and theories of research (1+2)

The special admission requirements may also be covered by equivalent studies from Norwegian upper secondary school or by other equivalent studies (in Norwegian).

The following courses must be taken earlier than the first mandatory laboratory in FYS2160:

Recommended previous knowledge

Overlapping courses

Information about overlapping courses may not be complete. Contact the Department of Physics if you require more information, studieinfo@fys.uio.no.


The first lecture is mandatory. If you are unable to attend, the Department of Physics has to be informed no later than the same day (e-mail studieinfo@fys.uio.no), or else you will lose your place in the course.

The course is taught during a full semester with 4 hours lectures and 4 hours group/computer exercises per week. Four compulsory exercises, of which 75% must be completed and approved to be allowed to sit the exam. Two weeks will be dedicated laboratory exercises with compulsory reports.

Regulations for mandatory assignments can be found here.

To attend mandatory laboratory classes it is required that the following courses must be taken earlier than the first compulsory laboratory in FYS2160:


You will need to provide documentation that you have passed HMS0503 and HMS0505 when you attend the first mandatory lab.

As the teaching involves laboratory and/or field work, you should consider taking out a separate travel and personal risk insurance. Read about your insurance cover as a student.


Final written 4-hour exam with 100% weight.

75% of the compulsory exercises plus reports from the two laboratory exercises must be completed and approved to be allowed to sit the exam.

Examination support material

  • Approved calculator
  • Rottman: "Matematisk formelsamling"
  • Øgrim and Lian or Angell and Lian: "Fysiske størrelser og enheter"
  • One A4 sheet with notes (2 pages)

Language of examination

You may write your examination paper in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Students who can document a valid reason for absence from the regular examination are offered a postponed exam at the beginning of the next semester.

New examinations are offered at the beginning of the next semester for students who do not successfully complete the exam during the previous semester.

We do not offer a re-scheduled exam for students who withdraw during the exam.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Every autumn


Every autumn

Teaching language

Norwegian (English on request)