CHEM 310 : Structural Chemistry and Spectroscopy


2022 Semester Two (1225) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Molecular structure is fundamental to the understanding of modern chemistry. Molecular spectroscopy provides an important method for probing the structure of molecules, and the following aspects of this subject will be presented: molecular energies and molecular spectra, molecular symmetry and spectroscopy, surface spectroscopy and the structure and chemistry of surfaces.

Course Overview

This course is designed for Chemistry majors, and those interested in Physical Chemistry and its applications. This course serves as good preparation for anyone wanting to do postgraduate study in chemistry. Skills developed in this course will also be useful for those wishing to have a research career in chemistry or materials science.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: 15 points from CHEM 210, 251

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Understand and apply theory related to molecular interactions in the gas and liquid phases (Capability 1)
  2. Understand and describe electronic levels in molecules from a theoretical perspective, and their practical importance in electronic spectroscopy. (Capability 1)
  3. Understand the adsorption and reaction of gaseous molecules on solid surfaces, and the practical importance of surface processes in heterogeneous catalysis. (Capability 1)
  4. Understand molecular symmetry, and its importance in the vibrational spectroscopic characterization of molecules. (Capability 1)
  5. Evaluate information from a wide range of sources, then apply that information to advancing your knowledge through self and group study. (Capability 2)
  6. Create new knowledge through undertaking group project work (Capability 3)
  7. Communicate effectively with peers and academics, which will be actively developed through supervised group project work and also a conference-like poster session. (Capability 4)
  8. Be able to contribute usefully in team environments, showing care and consideration for the views and experiences of your team members (Capability 6)
  9. Display personal integrity in all activities undertaken in the course. (Capability 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Tests 20% Individual Coursework
Laboratories 30% Group Coursework
Final Exam 50% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Final Exam

Key Topics

Molecular Interactions in the gas and liquid phases
Introduction to concepts of non-ideality in molecular interactions in the gas phase. Compression factor, equations of state, van der Waals equation, critical point. Non-ideality in liquids: molar quantities, chemical potential, mixing (ideal and regular solutions), upper and lower critical solution temperatures, eutectics, activity. Electrolyte/polymer solutions: Debye-Hückel theory, polymer properties, random walk, random coils, solvency, persistence length. Solution surfaces and interfaces: surface tension, surfactants, Gibbs adsorption isotherm, CMC, Krafft Temperature. Colloids and emulsions: emulsion instability, creaming, flocculation, coalescence, Ostwald ripening. Interactions in biophysical chemistry: Self-assembly, phospholipid membranes, proteins, folding, hydropathy.
Molecular Energy Levels and Spectroscopy
Introduction to concepts of spectroscopy – electromagnetic radiation, energy levels (electronic, vibrational, rotational), absorption emission and stimulated emission, selection rules. Calculation of molecular energy levels. Electronic spectroscopy. Molecular electronic states and their symmetry properties, symmetry selection rules for electronic transitions.
Modern Surface Chemistry and Heterogeneous Catalysis
Introduction to the concepts and techniques involved in the study of chemical processes at the gas/solid interface and their importance in heterogeneous catalysis. Topics to be covered include crystal and electronic structures of surfaces; adsorption and desorption; Langmuir adsorption isotherm and BET adsorption isotherm; surface kinetics and dynamics including surface reaction models; Langmuir-Hinshelwood and Eley-Rideal mechanisms; structure-reactivity relationships. Emphasis will be placed on the application of modern experimental methods, such as TPD, STM, XPS, HREELS, RAIRS for catalyst characterization, elucidation of reaction mechanisms, and the “in-situ” characterisation of working catalysts.
Molecular Symmetry and Spectroscopy
Molecular symmetry and group theory. Symmetry elements and symmetry operations, the molecular point groups, representations of symmetry operations, point group character tables. Application of group theory to molecular vibrations. Normal modes and their symmetry properties, determination of the symmetry species of normal modes, symmetry selection rules, structure determination using vibrational spectroscopy, correlation tables and symmetry reduction.

Special Requirements

The course comprises a laboratory component and a theory component. You must pass BOTH the theory (tests and final exam) and the practical (laboratory) work for the course to earn an overall pass grade. 

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

Over the semester, you can expect 36 hours of lectures (or 36 hours of lectures and tutorials), 24 h of lab work, 36 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 54 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable/block delivery. Attendance is expected at scheduled activities including lectures and labs to complete components of the course. Lectures will be available as recordings.  Attendance on campus is required for the tests, assuming Covid-19 Alert level 1. The final exam will be online.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

A remote version of the course can be made available to students located overseas because of border restrictions, or those with an exemption to study remotely.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Physical Chemistry (7th Edition or later), by Peter W Atkins, Oxford University Press, is the recommended general textbook. Lecturers may also recommend other books, and give more specific references where appropriate. 
CANVAS and email will be used heavily in posting material and updates.  Please ensure that you check your email and CANVAS frequently. 

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

At Covid-19 Alert level 1, CHEM 310 will be delivered on campus (with the exception being the final exam is scheduled to be delivered online). At higher Alert levels, both the teaching and assessments in CHEM 310 will move online (i.e. recorded lectures and assessments delivered through CANVAS).

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 31/10/2021 12:54 p.m.