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Quantum physics: fundamentals and applications

This module will take you on a journey from the fundamental concepts of quantum physics through to contemporary applications in quantum systems and quantum computing. It will give you a thorough understanding of quantum mechanics’ core principles, formalisms, and mathematical techniques. Building on this understanding, you’ll discover how quantum mechanics is used to model and control the behaviour of complex physical systems, from atoms to molecules and lattices of atoms. Additionally, you’ll carry out experiments on entanglement and critically interpret your results using a quantum computer.

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Module code




  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.

Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
Level of Study
3 10 6

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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What you will study

Quantum physics: fundamentals and applications (SM380) will teach you the core concepts of quantum physics, including:

  • the concepts of wave functions, expectation values and uncertainties
  • Schrödinger’s equation for simple model systems such as particles in boxes and harmonic oscillators
  • the quantum processes of tunnelling, barrier penetration and reflection
  • Dirac notation and how quantum states can be represented by vectors in a vector space, with observable quantities represented by operators acting on the vectors
  • the properties of orbital and spin angular momentum and the extraordinary properties of systems of identical particles
  • the hydrogen atom and useful techniques of approximation that will enable you to model a more complex system with the help of Python
  • fascinating concepts in the interpretation of quantum mechanics, like entanglement, superposition, and the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics.

This module focuses on problem-solving and the ability to reason clearly and to discuss complex ideas. It will enable you to confidently use the fundamental concepts and mathematical formalism to solve problems relating to simple quantum systems.

You’ll have a unique opportunity to carry out experiments on entanglement, developing distinctive and innovative skills and understanding of qubits and quantum logic operations – the building blocks of quantum computing.

You’ll learn to tackle problems relating to more complex quantum systems by using approximations and computational approaches.

Finally, you will see how quantum mechanical methods are used to understand the behaviour of matter, from the scale of nuclei and atoms to molecules and lattices.

By the end of your study, you’ll be able to critically discuss fundamental concepts in quantum mechanics (superposition and entanglement), basing the arguments on your own experimental data.

You will learn

You will learn:

  • the key ideas, concepts, fundamental principles and methods of quantum mechanics and its contemporary applications
  • to discuss the underlying concepts and interpretation of quantum phenomena at a graduate level
  • to describe quantum systems using appropriate-level mathematics
  • to simulate quantum systems using computing and purpose-written modelling tools
  • to use and apply the concepts, formalism and methods of core quantum mechanics to formulate and solve a range of problems, including unfamiliar ones
  • to make estimates and apply approximation methods to real systems, interpret the results and critically evaluate the extent to which these are applicable
  • to prepare, process, interpret and present data to communicate scientific information, arguments and ideas in quantum physics accurately and effectively using written, visual and numerical forms in a style that suits the purpose and audience
  • to obtain, record, collate and analyse data derived from investigations and interpret and report their significance considering underlying theory, practical issues and relevant information from other sources
  • to initiate, design, conduct and report on investigations that may involve the acquisition of data
  • to manage your own learning time and work independently
  • to engage effectively with feedback.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

Future availability

Quantum physics: fundamentals and applications (SM380) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2023.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2029.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    No residential school

    Entry requirements

    SM380 has no formal entry requirements; however, it is an OU level 3 module. Therefore, you need a good knowledge of mathematics and physics, obtained through OU level 1 and 2 study or another higher education institution.

    We recommend you have completed:

    The parts of MST224 or MST210 relating to matrices, ordinary differential equations and partial differential equations, and the parts of S217 relating to classical and quantum mechanics are especially important.

    We strongly recommend you check your background and experience are sufficient to tackle this module. We’ve found that appropriately prepared students have the best chance of completing their studies and get the most enjoyment from the module.

    Are you ready for SM380?

    Talk to an advisor if you’re not sure you’re ready.


    Start End England fee Register
    07 Oct 2023 Jun 2024 £1731.00

    Registration closes 07/09/23 (places subject to availability)

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2029.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2024. Fees normally increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

    This information was provided on 28/05/2023.

    Can you study an Access module for free?

    In order to qualify, you must:

    1. be resident in England
    2. have a personal income of less than £25,000 (or receive qualifying benefits)
    3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above, or completed 30 credits or more of OU study

    How to apply to study an Access module for free

    Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible.

    If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069 or you can request a call back.

    Not eligible to study for free?

    Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

    • monthly payments through OUSBA
    • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

    To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

    What's included

    The module uses a mix of two printed books and online material.

    The study material is in units. Each includes content presented in the two books accompanied by online videos, interactive activities and Python-based and remote activities. On the module website, you’ll find clear guidance about navigating the different activities and presentation tools.

    The spine of the module is the module website, which will direct you to printed books for the more fundamental content. The website will also include a week-by-week study planner.

    Forums will be used for discussions of interesting points raised in the interpretation of data from the activities and for more general discussion.

    Self-assessed questions in the module will feature to monitor progress.

    Computing requirements

    You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11), or macOS (11 'Big Sur' or higher).

    Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

    It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying SM380 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.