Introduction to particle and continuum mechanics


Timon Idema
Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Applied Sciences
Keywords: Classical mechanics, continuum mechanics, thermodynamics


In Introduction to particle and continuum mechanics, we study the classical physics of both collections of particles and continuous media. Taking Newton’s laws of motion as our axioms, we develop the theory of motion without the need for prior knowledge, with a particular focus on the laws of conservation of energy, momentum, and angular momentum. The relevant mathematics is provided in an appendix. The text contains various worked examples and a large number of original problems to help the reader develop an intuition for the physics.

In the first part, the focus is on particle physics, with applications to rockets, billiards, fictitious forces, spinning tennis rackets and the solar system. Next to Newtonian mechanics, we also study the Lagrangian formalism, which is particularly useful for systems with constraints, and generalizes to both quantum and relativistic systems. In the second part, we move to continuum systems, studying solid deformations, fluid flows, and the laws of thermodynamics, which give rise, among others, to heat engines, waves, and encounters with viscoelastic materials, with properties in between those of ordinary fluids or solids.

Author Biography

Timon Idema, Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Applied Sciences

Dr. T. (Timon) Idema is an associate professor at the Department of Bionanoscience at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in The Netherlands. Before starting his research group in Delft in 2012, Idema obtained his PhD in theoretical biophysics at Leiden University (The Netherlands) and worked at the Institut Curie (Paris, France) and the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, USA).

Idema's group studies collective dynamics in biologically motivated systems, ranging from proteins at the nano scale to tissues and populations at the micro- and macro scale. A theorist himself, Idema frequently collaborates and co-publishes with experimental groups. He also teaches a number of courses at TU Delft, from introductory physics to courses on soft matter and geometry that take students to the cutting edge of current research. Since the fall of 2020, Idema leads the joint-degree MSc Nanobiology programme of TU Delft and the Erasmus MC Rotterdam. For his educational work, Idema received several prizes, including the J.B. Westerdijkprize in 2020, a TU Delft education fellowship in 2021, and an open education ambassador award in 2023.

For more details on his group’s research and teaching activities, visit their website at


November 9, 2023


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.