3.091SC | Fall 2010 | Undergraduate

Introduction to Solid State Chemistry


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Transcript (PDF)

In this video:

  • What is Solid State Chemistry?
  • Not Strictly a Chemistry Class
  • Course Topics and Structure
  • Tips for Independent Learners
  • 3.091 in the World

Course Overview

Introduction to Solid State Chemistry is a one-semester college course on the principles of chemistry. This unique and popular course satisfies MIT’s general chemistry degree requirement, with an emphasis on solid-state materials and their application to engineering systems. You’ll begin with an exploration of the fundamental relationship between electronic structure, chemical bonding, and atomic order, then proceed to the chemical properties of “aggregates of molecules,” including crystals, metals, glasses, semiconductors, solutions and acid-base equilibria, polymers, and biomaterials. Real-world examples are drawn from industrial practice (e.g. semiconductor manufacturing), energy generation and storage (e.g. automobile engines, lithium batteries), emerging technologies (e.g. photonic and biomedical devices), and the environmental impact of chemical processing (e.g. recycling glass, metal, and plastic).

Is This Course for Me?

  • 3.091SC is not “just a chemistry class” - it’s a **chemistry-**centered class that integrates examples from the world around us, in the arts and humanities, the human stories behind the science, and applications to engineering and emerging technologies.
  • If you’ve taken chemistry classes before (for instance, high school AP Chemistry or another college-level chemistry overview), 3.091SC offers a fresh look at some familiar topics, and includes other topics that fall outside the “standard” chemistry curriculum.
  • While it satisfies MIT’s graduation requirement for general chemistry — and thus may be the last chemistry class you take — 3.091SC is also a solid basis for many more years of study in chemistry-intensive subjects.

In this video recorded in March 2012, Professor Sadoway uses his new liquid metal battery to demonstrate the value of understanding chemistry and his approach to teaching and innovation. (This video is from TEDtalksDirector on YouTube and is not provided under our Creative Commons license.)

Before You Begin


Freshman entering MIT have a wide range of chemistry backgrounds, from no or little exposure in high school, to one or more years of advanced chemistry. This course accommodates that diversity, presuming only a motivation to learn chemistry, basic knowledge of high school physics and math, and problem-solving skills.

Learning Objectives

Upon successful completion of 3.091SC, students will have accomplished the following general and specific learning objectives.


  • Predict the properties and interactions of chemical substances by understanding their composition at the atomic level, making connections to structure, bonding, and thermodynamics as necessary.
  • Determine and apply principles of materials science (specifically microstructure design and selection) to the selection of materials for specific engineering applications.
  • Assess the quality of text and graphics in textbooks and other published sources, and understand the advantages and limitations of different models proposed to explain each concept.
  • Understand and identify the similarities and differences among important classes of materials including glasses, metals, polymers, biomaterials, and semiconductors.


  • Utilize models of the atom to predict bonding and behavior of atoms.
  • Apply trends in the periodic table to predict behavior and properties of the elements.
  • Predict the behavior of specific elements in chemical reactions.
  • Understand how the primary and secondary bonding of atoms influences materials properties and behavior.
  • Apply basic rules of electron orbitals to predict molecular structure and properties.
  • Sketch the seven crystal systems and fourteen Bravais lattices.
  • Specify atomic planes, directions, and families of planes and directions within a given crystal structure using Miller indices.
  • Correlate X-ray diffraction information with crystal structure.
  • Compare and contrast the scattering of X-rays, neutrons and electrons within a crystal, and understand when one should use each of these to obtain structural information about a material.
  • Utilize band theory to describe the operation of modern semiconductor devices.
  • Use thermodynamics to explain the presence of point defects in crystalline solids.
  • Describe point, line, planar, and bulk imperfections in crystalline solids, and explain how these imperfections interact.
  • Identify the atomic-scale similarities and differences between amorphous and crystalline solids.
  • Discuss the structural and physical property differences between inorganic glasses (oxides, metallic) and organic glasses (polymers).
  • Apply reaction kinetics to determine the rate of chemical reactions; understand the factors that influence rates of reaction.
  • Utilize basic biochemistry to understand the formation of amino acids, peptides and proteins, lipids and nucleic acids.
  • Apply Fick’s laws to predict the diffusion time and depth for systems with various initial and boundary conditions.
  • Utilize binary phase diagrams to identify weight and/or atomic percentages of components, and relative amounts of stable phases in binary and unary solutions.


  • How much time will this class take?

At MIT, this class meets five times per week for fourteen weeks, with three one-hour lectures by Professor Sadoway, and two one-hour recitation sessions with a graduate teaching assistant. Between attending classes and the reading, homework, and exam preparation, MIT students expect to spend about 150 hours on this course.

  • Can I work with others?

Homework: At MIT, homework for this course is not graded. You should consider working these problems to be an essential part of developing your knowledge. At MIT, working together in groups on is common and even encouraged.

Self-Assessment: The self-assessment and final exam portions of 3.091SC are compiled from in-class examinations. They are intended for you to demonstrate your mastery of the material. You should work these problems on your own, closed-book, using only a calculator, a periodic table and list of fundamental constants (see Reference Materials), and one 8.5" x 11" aid sheet containing your choice of formulas and other information.

Course Topics

3.091SC combines teaching about foundational chemistry concepts with applications to particular material forms. To guide you through the course, individual class sessions are related to the following foundation and application modules.

  • Foundations 

    • Structure of the Atom - The periodic table, elements and compounds, chemical formulas. Evolution of atomic theory: Thomson & Rutherford, Bohr model of hydrogen, Bohr-Sommerfeld model and multi-electron atoms, atomic spectra, Schrödinger equation. Electron orbitals: Aufbau principle, Pauli exclusion principle, and Hund’s rules.
      • Sessions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
    • Bonding and Molecules - Primary bonding: ionic, covalent, metallic. Secondary bonding: dipole-dipole, induced dipole-induced dipole, London dispersion/van der Waals, hydrogen. Shapes of molecules: hybridization, LCAO-MO, VSEPR theory.
      • Sessions 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
    • Reactions and Kinetics - Reaction kinetics: rate laws, thermal activation, and the Arrhenius equation. Diffusion: Fick’s first and second laws.
      • Sessions 22 (second part), 23, 24
  • Applications 

    • Electronic Materials - Band theory: metals, insulators, and semiconductors. Band gaps, doping, and devices.
      • Sessions 13, 14, 15 (first part)
    • Crystalline Materials - Crystal structure: 7 crystal systems, 14 Bravais lattices, Miller indices. Properties of cubic crystals. X-ray diffraction. Defects: point, line, surface, bulk.
      • Sessions 15 (second part), 16, 17, 18, 19, 20
    • Amorphous Materials - Inorganic glasses: silicates, other oxides, metallics.
      • Sessions 21, 22 (first part)
    • Aqueous Solutions - Liquids and solutions: solubility rules, acids, bases, pH.
      • Sessions 25, 26
    • Organic Materials - Organic compounds: nomenclature, alkanes, alkenes, alkynes, aromatics, functional groups. Polymers: structure, composition, synthesis and applications. Biochemistry: amino acids, peptides and proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, protein biosynthesis.
      • Sessions 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32
    • Solid Solutions - Phase stability: unary and binary phase diagrams.
      • Sessions 33, 34, 35

Course Structure

Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the organization of this course. 3.091SC consists of nine modules, followed by final exam. Each module contains a sequence of several session pages, and ends with a self-assessment page.

Order of Topics

3.091SC combines teaching about foundational chemistry concepts with applications to particular material forms. This website has been organized for a linear progression through the topics, reflecting the order of lectures as taught at MIT. The initial Structure of the Atom and Bonding and Molecules modules are an essential foundation for the latter portion of the course, and should be studied first. As an independent learner, you could then work through the latter application-oriented modules in the order in which they are presented, or choose a different order which suits your particular interests. For instance, you could study Aqueous Solutions or Organic Materials before the modules on Electronic, Crystalline, and Amorphous Materials. Check the prerequisites listed on each session page to see what prior knowledge is needed, and if needed follow the links to other sessions or modules.

Session Pages

This class consists of 35 individual sessions. Each session page has the following content:

  • Session Overview: A quick glance at what’s in this session and how it fits into the course – keywords, prerequisites, and learning objectives.
  • Reading: The suggested readings from the course notes and textbooks should be completed before watching the video (see note below on Textbooks).
  • Lecture Video: Each session has one lecture video, approximately 1 hour long. A PDF file of the slides is provided for reference.
  • Homework: These problems with solutions are for your benefit, to develop your practical understanding of the material.
  • For Further Study: These optional resources may include supplemental reading lists, additional content on historical or cultural aspects mentioned in this session, and related or next-step online content.

Self-Assessment Pages

After you’ve done all the readings, watched all the lecture videos, and completed the homework in a module, use the self-assessment page to confirm that you understand the material. Each self-assessment page provides several types of problems with solutions, plus helpful videos.

  • Weekly Quizzes: These short quizzes are representative of the homework in this module, and an indication of the knowledge you should have in preparing for the module exam.

  • Exam Problems: These problems from the Fall 2009 tests verify that you’ve developed the appropriate depth of understanding, before you move on to the next module.

  • Help Session Videos: In these informal videos, three teaching assistants from the Fall 2009 class work through their approach to solving the exam problems. 

    » Meet the TAs

  • Supplemental Exam Problems: These additional exam problems from prior year classes are provided for optional further study.

Final Exam

After completing all nine modules, you’ll be prepared for the final exam. Work these problems and check the solutions for an overall assessment of your mastery of the course content.

Content from Various Years

This OCW Scholar course consolidates materials from several years of 3.091. The core contents (lecture videos, lecture slides, and module self-assessments) are from the Fall 2009 teaching term. The “archived lecture notes” used for many session readings were originally written by Prof. August Witt, who taught this course at MIT until 1999. Supplemental exam problems are drawn from the 2007 and 2008 classes, and the final exam is from the Fall 2010 class.

Textbooks and Reference Materials

Suggested Textbooks

The readings and homework portions of each session combine original content provided on this website and references in commercial textbooks. While the materials on this website are sufficient to complete the course, Professor Sadoway believes that students must also learn how to use textbooks effectively, laying a foundation for future academic work and lifelong scientific literacy.

Successful progress in this course will be helped greatly by having access to these books or their equivalents. See the link below for details.

Reference Materials

A detailed periodic table of the elements and a table of fundamental physical constants are essential references used throughout the course. These are provided at the following link.

» Reference materials and a list of suggested textbooks

Technical Requirements

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Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2010
Learning Resource Types
Course Introduction
Exams with Solutions
Lecture Notes
Lecture Videos
Problem Sets with Solutions
Recitation Videos
Problem Sets
Exam Materials