Applied physics

A.Y. 2021/2022
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The purpose of this course is twofold:
- Consolidate the basic concepts essential for understanding molecular and biomolecular phenomena and technologies. Particular emphasis will be given to thermodynamics and to the proper use of the concept of energy;
- Introduce the basics of fluorescence and of optical microscopy, thereby allowing a proper understanding of some biotechnological basic methodologies.
Expected learning outcomes
In this class the student: (i) learns about the physical quantities of importance in the field of Biotechnologies, with a specific emphasis on thermodynamic quantities, and about their units of measurements; (ii) learns to use such quantities in quantitative problems; (iii) learns about the physical and technological foundations of optical microscopy and fluorescence.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
Any notice regarding updates or changes of Covid-19 rules will be communicated by the Didactic Secretary
Lectures and other face-to-face teaching activities will be delivered in blended mode, partly in person and partly online, preferably in synchronous mode with only specific contributes in asynchronous mode. Specifically, the "in presence" lessons will be planned from Wednesday to Friday, while during the remaining days of the week will be planned online lessons. In line with the Covid safety protocol approved by our University, the "in presence" lessons will be possible by rotation with seat reservations made by using the available app easy lesson.

All lectures will be recorded and made available to the students on dedicated platform (e.g. Ariel, TEAMS, etc.).

In case of new suspension of "in presence" lessons, all the face-to-face teaching activities students will be switched to synchronous distance learning. Each hour of the lesson will include 45min of formal teaching followed by 15min of discussion / interaction / question time.
Course syllabus
Introduction to quantitative description of motions
Introduction to the physical quantities and to the proper use of their transformations
Description of the motion of bodies: space dimensions, velocity, acceleration, decomposition of the motion along orthogonal axes, parabolic motion, range of a projectile
The three laws of motion, the definition of mass and strength
Introduction to different types of forces: weight, static and dynamical friction force, reaction force,
elastic force
Introduction to the description of the fluids: pressure in a fluid, Stevino law, Archimedes force, the viscous friction (definition and viscous friction force on a sphere)
Work of forces
Kinetic energy theorem
Conservative and non-conservative forces
Potential energy (with examples containing elastic force and weight)
Conservation and dissipation of mechanical energy, definition of power

Zero law of thermodynamics: thermal contact
Thermometers and definition of thermometric scales (Kelvin and Celsius)
Heat and calorie
Thermal contact and thermal equilibrium
State equation of an ideal gas
Kinetic theory of gases (microscopical description of temperature, principle of energy equipartition)
Equivalence of work and heat (Joule experiment)
First law of thermodynamics
Transformations of an ideal gas (isothermal, isobaric, isochoric, adiabatic)
Internal energy and interaction potential
Thermalization and Boltzmann distribution (activated dynamics)
Random walk (and random chain) and diffusion (diffusion coefficient, Fick's law)
Second law of thermodynamics (Clausius, Kelvin)
Carnot cycle, thermal engine and yield
Definition of entropy
Irreversible processes in an isolated system (free expansion, thermalization of two bodies in
contact), yield of irreversible engines, lost work and energy degradation
Statistical description of entropy (the configuration and velocity space)
Free energy

Electrostatic and optics
Electric charge and Coulomb force,
Electrostatic potential energy, electric field, electric potential
Insulating and conducting materials (metals and electrolytes)
Electric current, resistance, global and local Ohm's laws
Joule effect
Nature of electromagnetic radiation: frequency, velocity of propagation, wavelength, wavevector
Spectrum of the radiation, light radiation, radiation power
Refractive index, refraction, total reflection

Physical basis of fluorescence and optical microscopy
Introduction to the concept of images and optical image formation by lenses.
Convergent and divergent lenses. Real and virtual images. Lens aberrations (chromatic aberration,
spherical aberration, field curvature).
Main properties of most used light sources (incandescent lamp, arc lamp, led and
laser) and light detectors (photodiodes, CCD, photomultipliers).
Introduction to light spectra. Methods of discriminating wavelengths in a spectrum
(dichroic filters and diffraction gratings).
Introduction to spectral measurements and to the basic structure of the spectrophotometer.
Introduction to fluorescence and to the basic structure of fluorimeters. Introduction to FRET.
Introduction to the structure of optical microscopes: optical components and microscope geometries; conjugated planes.
Magnification and resolution. Role of the numerical aperture in the resolution.
Illumination in the microscope. Use of the condenser.
Microscopy in bright field and in dark field, fluorescence microscopy, polarized microscopy,
phase contrast microscopy.
Prerequisites for admission
No knowledge are required
Teaching methods
The course includes both lectures and exercises, the latter aimed at solving problems in the classroom.
The following teaching materials are available on the Ariel platform:
- A detailed index of the topics covered in the course. This index must be used as a reference basis for the study carried out in normal textbooks, as these typically contain more material than that covered in the course.
- The pdf files of the slides used to treat the technology part in class.
Teaching Resources
A very detailed list of topics presented in the class will be available on the course website. The file also includes comments and insights.
This list is aimed at helping the students to select the chapters to study out of university physics texts.
There is not single reference text, since the topics covered in the class are easily found in all university physics texts for biological sciences.
Assessment methods and Criteria
The exam will be a written test composed of two parts relative to the two parts of the course: 1. concepts, 2. technologies.
The test on concepts is composed of six open questions: the exact answer to three of them allows passing the exam, while the exact answer to the other three, of slightly greater complexity, allows to get maximum score. Four of the six questions will be in the form of quantitative problems, while the remaining two will be in the form of a theoretical question. Evaluation will in particular take into account: the ability to correctly organize the resolution of the problem by clarifying which equations are used and why, and the quantitative processing capacity that allows to obtain at the correct result, including units of measurement.
The test on technologies is instead composed of closed-ended questions ("true" or "false") and of the drawing of a scheme of operation of a phenomenon or device described in class.
During one of the final lessons of the course there will be an ongoing test for the part of technologies.
The outcome of the assessment will be communicated through the University's IT system.
FIS/07 - APPLIED PHYSICS - University credits: 9
Practicals: 24 hours
Lessons: 60 hours