Physical Chemistry (2010/2011)

Course code
Ugo Luigi Monaco
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Teaching is organised as follows:
Activity Credits Period Academic staff Timetable
Teoria 5 II semestre Ugo Luigi Monaco
Laboratorio 1 II semestre Ugo Luigi Monaco

Lesson timetable

II semestre
Activity Day Time Type Place Note
Teoria Monday 8:30 AM - 10:30 AM lesson Lecture Hall C  
Teoria Tuesday 8:30 AM - 10:30 AM lesson Lecture Hall C  
Laboratorio Friday 8:30 AM - 12:30 PM lesson Laboratory Laboratorio di Chimica Fisica  

Learning outcomes

The course Physical Chemistry for the Degree program in Biotechnology is aimed at the development of the necessary abilities to quantitatively describe the macroscopic properties of chemical systems, specially of those of interest to the biologist. The use of a textbook in English is another important characteristic of great importance.


Thermodynamics. Introduction. Description of a macroscopic system. State variables. Definition of the state of a system. Process. Heat and work. Work in the expansion of a gas. Other types of work. Mathematical description of a system with one or more independent variables. First law of Thermodynamics. Exaples of calculations using the first law. Molecular interpretation of energy variations.
Enthalpy and heat capacity. Measurement and calculation of enthalpy variations. Thermochemistry. Molecular interpretation of enthalpy variations. Cooperative processes. Thermodytnamic properties of water. Biological significance. Second law of Thermodynamics. Spontaneous processes. Entropy. Calculation of entropy veriations for some important processes. Molecular interpretation of entropy. Third law of Thermodynamics. Residual entropy.Examples of calculations. The Gibbs and Helmholtz free energies. The free energy spontaneity criterion. Physical meaning of the Gibbs and Helmholtz free energies. Chemical potential. Physical meaning. Chemical equilibrium. Equilibrium constant. Methods used to calculate and measure the free energy variations of chemical reactions.Influence of the temperature. Van't Hoff's equation. Biochemical examples. Denaturation of proteins. The hydriphobic effect. Phase equilibria. The phase ruler. The Clausius-Clapeyron equation. Phase transitions in biological systems. Other examples of biological applications of Thermodynamics.

Chemical and Biochemical kinetics. An introduction to chemical kinetics and its methods. Reaction mechanisms. The relationship between rate constant and equilibrium constant. The principle of microscopic reversibility. The determination of a reaction mechanism. The rate law. Methods. Integration of the rate laws. Examples: radioactive decay and DNA renaturation. Reaction profile and reaction coordinates. Arrhenius theory: activation energy and frequency factor. Eyring’st heory. Free energy of activation. Experimental methods. Enzyme kinetics. The Michaelis-Menten model. Plotting the data with the Eadie and Lineweaver-Burk methods. Application of Eyring’s theory to enzymes. Factors that influence the catalytic activity of enzymes. The transition state.

Recommended textbooks

1) Eisenberg, D. and Crothers, D. Physical Chemistry with applications to the Life Sciences. Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company.Menlo Park, California, U.S.A. 1979.

2) Atkins P. e De Paula J. Physical Chemistry for the Life sciences Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K. 2006.

Assessment methods and criteria

Written and oral examination. The first part consist in solving between 5 and 10 problems of the type discussed in class. The oral examination is given on the following day and covers the topics discused in class.