Università degli Studi di Napoli "Parthenope"

Teaching schedule

Academic year: 
Belonging course: 
Course of Bachelor's Degree Programme on BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
Disciplinary sector: 
Year of study: 
Second semester
Hours of front activity: 



Course description

The course is devoted to equilibrium thermodynamics. The general objective of the course is to introduce the student to the basic knowledge of bioenergetics, applied to biological systems

Knowledge and understanding: The student must demonstrate knowing the issues related to bioenegetics and energy convertibility.

Ability to apply knowledge and understanding: The student must demonstrate that he is able to use the concepts acquired and the tools necessary to carry out an autonomous analysis of the energy constraints underlying a biochemical process, for example during chemical reactions or phase changes.

Judgment autonomy: Students must be able to independently evaluate situations different from the standard presented by the teacher during the course and to adopt the best solving methodologies. For this purpose, examples of application and exercises are proposed during the course

Communicative Skills: Students must acquire the correct terminology and be able to articulate the explanation of physical phenomena in relation to acquired concepts.

Learning Skills: The student is given the opportunity to consult different texts. Texts from scientific literature (also in English) are proposed, in order to acquire the ability to deepen the topics of equilibrium thermodynamics.


Mathematics, General and Inorganic Chemistry
- derivatives and integrals of elementary functions (important)
- concept of work and energy in physics (useful)
- basic elements of general chemistry (mole concept, balance of reactions); Basic nomenclature (important)


Physical states of matter. Forces and energy. Pressure. Temperature. Zero principle of thermodynamics.

Ideal gases. State equation. Ideal gas kinetic theory. Mixture of ideal gases. Intermolecular interactions. Real gases. Compressibility factor.

Heat as a form of internal energy. Mechanical work. Internal energy. The first principle of thermodynamics. Heat capacity. The enthalpy. Properties of internal energy and enthalpy. Hess's law. Kirchhoff's law. Energy of living systems.

Spontaneous transformations. Reversible and irreversible transformations. Entropy. The statistical interpretation of entropy.
Helmholtz's energy. Gibbs's energy. Helmholtz's and Gibbs's energy properties. Maximum work and useful work.

Stability of phases. State diagrams. Phase rule. Liquid-gas and liquid-liquid balance. Clausius-Clapeyron equation. Raoult and Henry's Laws. Phase transitions of biological systems.
Gibbs energy of reactions. Dependence on temperature and pressure of chemical equilibria. Catalysts. Bioenergetics of chemical reactions. Biochemical cycles.
Descriptive chemical kinetics. The speeds of a chemical reaction. Arrhenius equation. Spectroscopic Principles.
During the course, two inter-course tests will take place, valid for passing the final exam, as indicated in the "Learning assessment methods" section.

Teaching Methods

Frontal lessons


Atkins & de Paula. Physical Chemistry for Biological Sciences. Volume I. Zanichelli.
Handouts and transparencies from the course.

Learning assessment

The objective of the examimation is to check the level of achievement of the training objectives previously indicated.
The examination is structured in two inter-course trials where the student is called upon to solve the exercises on the topics explained in the classroom (5 numerical or theoretical exercises to be performed in 2 hours).
If the two inter-course tests have both obtained full sufficiency (>= 18), the candidate is left free to choose to verbalize this evaluation as a final grade; otherwise the student must take an oral test in which the exercises and examples discussed during the course are also requested. Examination is passed if the score is greater or equal than 18.

More information