2023-2024 / PHYS0060-1

Structures and Symmetries


30h Th, 20h Pr

Number of credits

 Bachelor in physics4 crédits 


Matthieu Verstraete

Language(s) of instruction

French language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the first semester, review in January


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

The aim of this course is to describe, determine and understand the various types of order observed in molecules and condensed matter, in relation to their physical properties. Symmetry plays a central role.
Overview of the course:

  • Order and disorder in condensed matter
  • Symmetry (Group theory)
  • Geometric crystallography
  • Bonding and main types of crystalline architectures
  • Scattering : basics and application to crystals
  • Determination of the structure of crystals
  • Crystalline defects and crystal growth

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

Main outcomes:

  • functional knowledge of symmetries and groups
  • knowledge of the nomenclatures of symmetry groups
  • usage of symmetry groups to reduce the complexity of a Physical problem
  • foundation for solid state course
  • foundation for the use of different groups (Lorenz, SU(2), SU(3), etc...) in Master's courses on field theory or relativity

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

Basic physics Basic Chemistry - elements, bonds Fourier transform

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

Exercices : 20h.

Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)

Course and problem sets in face-to-face teaching. Course slides are available on MyULg

Recommended or required readings

Lecture notes.
Group Theory: Group Theory: Application to the Physics of Condensed Matter, Mildred S. Dresselhaus, Gene Dresselhaus, Ado Jorio, Springer éd. ISBN-10: 3642069452 Chapters 1-3
Condensed matter, crystal structure, and defects: Solid State Physics, Neil W. Ashcroft, N. David Mermin, Brooks Cole ISBN-10: 0030839939
Introduction to Solid State Physics, Charles Kittel, Wiley ISBN-10: 047141526X chapters 1, 2, 3 (crystals, symmetry), 19, 20 (defects - advanced)

Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

written exam ( open-ended questions ) AND oral exam

Written work / report

Additional information:

Written report on the exercises with the CrystalMaker and CrystalDiffract programs. Contributes to 10% of the final grade.

The exam contains:

1) a written part prepared at home, between 24 and 48 hours before the formal examination day. Any resource can be used (internet, syllabus and discussions with your colleagues), and an personal report must be submitted in electronic pdf format (either uploaded on dox, or e-mailed to the teacher and assistant in cc). This part forms the basis for discussion and presentation during the second part.

2) an oral exam, beginning with a presentation of the resolution of one part of the written work on the blackboard. This is followed by questions on the other chapters of the course, presented and solved on the board by the candidate.


Work placement(s)

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course


Prof. Matthieu Verstraete
Université de Liège
Département de Physique, Bat. B5a, 4/50
Allée du 6 aout, 19
Phone : +32 4 366 90 17
Mail : matthieu.verstraete@uliege.be

Louis Bastogne
bureau 4/54 Physique bâtiment B5a
Quartier Agora
Mail : Louis.Bastogne@uliege.be

Association of one or more MOOCs

Items online

PHYS0060 - VESTA crystal files for visualization
These files are readable with the VESTA free crystal structure visualization software


VESTA also reads many other formats found online: cif, xsf, xyz (positions without a unit cell), pdb (molecules and proteines)

NOTA BENE: you have to remove the final .txt extension so that your operating system will recognize the file type.

VESTA will accept the file whichever extension you give it (the content is the same).