Physics 3750: Quantum Physics I

3750 Quantum Physics I introduces the foundational techniques that are required to understand the physics of atoms and molecules. Beginning with the wave-particle duality of nature, the wave function and the time-independent Schrodinger equation, techniques to calculate wave functions and macroscopic observables in simple one-dimensional models are covered. The three-dimensional hydrogen atom, the simplest real-life system that allows for a quantitative quantum description, is then examined in detail.

CO: Mathematics 2000. PHYS 3220 is recommended.
PR: PHYS 2750 (or 2056 or CHEM 2302), Mathematics 2000. PHYS 3220 is recommended.

One of the most important developments in twentieth-century physics was the discovery of quantum physics. The "quantum" in quantum physics relates to the discreteness in the energy levels of atoms, which was discovered in early optical spectroscopy experiments. In this course, we will introduce the wave function, the de Broglie wavelength, the Uncertainty Principle, and the time-independent and time-dependent Schrodinger's equation. Then we will learn techniques to calculate the wave function, the probability density and macroscopic observables for particles in simple one-dimensional potentials: the infinite and finite potential well, the harmonic oscillator, the free particle and the delta function potential. Within this simplified context, we will perform calculations of the transmission coefficients, and see the phenomenon of quantum tunneling. Then, after some attention to the formal structure which will introduce operators and commutation relations and the uncertainty principle, we will embark on a problem of great importance: the energy levels of the hydrogen atom, which allows one finally connect our study of quantum theory to the experiments that sparked the discovery of quantum physics. More advanced topics are then covered, either in class lectures, or via guided student term projects.


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