Introduction to Atomic Physics

Course content

The course gives an introduction to the physics of atoms, their structure, their spectra, and their response to external electromagnetic fields, as relevant to students in physics, chemistry, astronomy, geophysics, and biophysics. The course addresses 2. and 3. year students and will enable students to follow MSc-courses in quantum optics, atomic physics, laser physics, quantum chemistry, etc..

Examples will be given of applications in astronomy, geophysics, and biophysics. Visits to research laboratories and relevant companies will be arranged.


B.Sc. Physics

Learning outcome

A student who has attended the course Introduction to atomic physics can:

  • write down the Schrødinger equation for the hydrogen atom, outline the procedure for arriving at its solution, describe the solutions, explain the physical mechanisms responsible for fine structure, Lamb shift, and hyperfine structure, and describe the importance of the hydrogen atom in the development of physics.
  • explain the principles for interaction between an atom and external electromagnetic fields, including selection rules and why they exist, and explain the interaction between an atom and external static fields as they materialise in Zeeman effect and Stark effect.
  • explain how an understanding of the hydrogen atom leads to an understanding of two-electron atoms, many-electron atoms, and the principles leading to the periodic system of the elements.
  • explain the origin of molecular bonds, the importance of the Born-Oppenheimer approximation, and how the internal degrees of freedom give rise to molecular spectra.
  • describe important spectroscopic techniques, interpret the spectra of alkali atoms and simple molecules, explain the physical mechanisms behind the spectral line profiles, and discuss some important applications of spectroscopy.

The student will obtain knowledge on such topics as: the hydrogen atom, radiation theory, relativistic effects, Zeeman and Stark effect, Lambshift, hyperfine structure, two-electron systems, alkali atoms, the Thomas-Fermi atomic model, the structure and spectra of diatomic molecules.

The student learns to use the knowledge of e.g. quantum mechanics gained in previous courses on atoms. Through this course, the student gains the competences to pursue further studies within the subject, e.g. more advanced courses or projects.

Course structure: The course runs over 7 weeks, each containing two 4-hour periods. Each period consists of two hours of lectures and two ours of exercises, mainly problem solving, supplemented by one lab exercise. The course ends with an article presentation which takes place during the exam period.

Se Absalon for endelig kursuslitteratur. Nedenstående er et eksempel på forventet undervisningsmateriale.


Christopher J. Foot: Atomic Physics, Oxford University Press (2005), supplemented by lecture notes

EM2, KM1 + 2 or the equivalent.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 25 min
No Preparation time.
Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners
Criteria for exam assessment

See Learning Outcome.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 28
  • Theory exercises
  • 28
  • Exam
  • 0,5
  • Preparation
  • 149,5
  • English
  • 206,0