FYS2160 – Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics

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 of 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 phonon-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 analyze the macroscopic behaviour 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.

Admission to the course

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.

Special admission requirements

In addition to fulfilling theHigher 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).

Formal prerequisite knowledge

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

Overlapping courses


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:

  • 4 hours of lectures
  • 2-4 hours group/computer exercises per week.

This course has four mandatory assignments, and two laboratory exercises with mandatory reports.

At least 3 mandatory assignments plus reports from both laboratory exercises must be approved before you can sit the final exam. If you have participated in at least 10 group exercises, you only need to submit 2 mandatory assignments.

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 – Laboratory Safety and HMS0505 – Electricity Safety 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 exam part one: a home exam which counts 60 % towards the final grade.
  • Final exam part two: a written exam which counts 40 % towards the final grade.
  • Both exams are held in the same week.

This course has mandatory exercises that must be approved before you can sit the final exam.

It will also be counted as one of the three attempts to sit the exam for this course, if you sit the exam for one of the following courses: FYS2169 – Statistisk mekanikk og termisk fysikk - Seminarvariant

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

Subjects taught in English will only offer the exam paper in English. 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.

Resit an examination

This course offers both postponed and resit of examination. Read more:

Special examination arrangements, use of sources, explanations and appeals

See more about examinations at UiO

Last updated from FS (Common Student System) Dec. 4, 2022 10:13:03 PM

Facts about this course

Teaching language
Norwegian (English on request)