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Griffin, Robert Guy, 5.61 Physical Chemistry, Fall 2007. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 09 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Physical Chemistry

Fall 2007

Wavefunctions and probability distributions for the first four energy levels of the quantum harmonic oscillator. (Illustration courtesy of OCW.)

Course Description

This course presents an introduction to quantum mechanics. It begins with an examination of the historical development of quantum theory, properties of particles and waves, wave mechanics and applications to simple systems — the particle in a box, the harmonic oscillator, the rigid rotor and the hydrogen atom. The lectures continue with a discussion of atomic structure and the Periodic Table. The final lectures cover applications to chemical bonding including valence bond and molecular orbital theory, molecular structure, spectroscopy.


The material for 5.61 has evolved over a period of many years, and, accordingly, several faculty members have contributed to the development of the course contents. The original version of the lecture notes that are available on OCW was prepared in the early 1990's by Prof. Sylvia T. Ceyer. These were revised and transcribed to electronic form primarily by Prof. Keith A. Nelson. The current version includes additional contributions by Professors Moungi G. Bawendi, Robert W. Field, Robert G. Griffin, Robert J. Silbey and John S. Waugh, all of whom have taught the course in the recent past.



McQuarrie, Donald A. Quantum Chemistry. 2nd ed. Sausalito, CA: University Science Books, 2007. ISBN: 9781891389504.

Other Books

Atkins, P., and J. de Paula. Physical Chemistry. 7th ed. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman and Company, 2001. ISBN: 9780716735397.

Silbey, R., R. Alberty, and M. Bawendi. Physical Chemistry. 4th ed. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 2004. ISBN: 9780471215042.

Karplus, M., and R. Porter. Atoms and Molecules: An Introduction for Students of Physical Chemistry. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley, 1970. ISBN: 9780805352184.


There will be three one-hour examinations during the term and a regularly scheduled final examination. An information sheet summarizing details of the examinations will be distributed prior to each examination. All of the exams will be closed-notes and closed-book. Tutorial reviews will be held prior to each exam.


Problems will be assigned every week. Late problem sets are not accepted. Homework will be graded by the recitation instructor and returned in recitation.


A total of 600 points is possible in the course as follows:

Homework 100
Exams 300 (100 each)
Final exam 200
Total 600

Tutorial Reviews

These will be held prior to each exam.


The calendar below provided information on the course's lecture (L) and exam (E) sessions.

L1 Historical development  
L2 The atom of Niels Bohr  
L3 Wave nature, de Broglie wavelength  
L4 Uncertainty principle  
L5 Stationary waves, Schrödinger equation Problem set 1 due
L6 Particle in a box  
L7 Probabilities, expectation values, operators I  
L8 Probabilities, expectation values, operators II Problem set 2 due
L9 Postulates of quantum mechanics I  
L10 Postulates of quantum mechanics II Problem set 3 due
L11 Classic harmonic oscillator  
L12 Quantum harmonic oscillator  
E1 First hour exam  
L13 Tunneling  
L14 Three dimensional systems Problem set 4 due
L15 Rigid rotor  
L16 Spherical harmonics  
L17 Angular momenta  
L18 Hydrogen atom I Problem set 5 due
L19 Hydrogen atom II  
L20 Variation principle  
L21 Helium atom  
E2 Second hour exam  
L22 Hartree-Fock, SCF  
L23 Electron spin Problem set 6 due
L24 Pauli principle  
L25 Born-Oppenheimer approximation  
L26 Molecular orbital theory, H2+  
L27 LCAO-MO theory Problem set 7 due
E3 Third hour exam  
L28 Qualitative molecular orbital theory  
L29 Modern electronic structure theory  
L30 Interaction of light with matter  
L31 Vibrational spectra Problem set 8 due
L32 NMR spectroscopy I  
L33 NMR spectroscopy II  
L34 Perturbation theory Problem set 9 due
L35 Vibrational anharmonicity  
L36 Crystal field states  
E4 Final exam   Tell A Friend