Environmental chemistry

A.Y. 2019/2020
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The environmental chemistry takes into account the chemical aspects of the problems created by humankind in the natural environment. Based on this premise, the main learning objective of the course is to give the basic knowledge about the chemistry of air, water and soil and its main anthropogenic chemical pollutants, analysing the way in which they are distributed, transported, transformed and stored in the three environmental compartments. For a comprehensive understanding of these phenomena, in this context also the energy production and energy sources are analysed, starting from the most traditional ones such as fossil fuels, to the most modern and alternative ones such as photovoltaic cells, passing through the most controversial ones such as atomic energy, with particular emphasis to their impact on the environment. To complete this journey, the course aims to provide an overview of the feasible strategies to remedy, prevent or decrease the environmental impact of the main sources of pollution, as well as on the new approaches for the industrial synthesis of chemicals through more sustainable processes.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the Environmental Chemistry course the student must know:
- the basic chemistry of the three environmental compartments, air, water and soil.
- classification, sources, structure, transformations and destiny of the main environmental chemical pollutants: VOC, particulates, CO2, SOx and NOx, chlorinated solvents, BTX, IPA, heavy metals, pesticides, Dioxins and DLCs, endocrine disruptors, flame retardants , PFCs.
- the main methods of water purification (potabilization) and wastewater treatment.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
Course syllabus
1. Air:
1.1 Stratosphere Chemistry and Ozone Hole
- Definition of stratosphere, light absorption, oxygen and ozone and UV filtration.
- Stratosphere chemistry: formation and destruction of ozone, chlorine and bromine influence.
- Formation of ozone hole and world politics to counteract it.

1.2 Air pollution at ground level
- Urban ozone and photochemical smog, concentration of VOC and NOX.
- Sulfur-based emissions
- Particulate pollution

1.3 Indoor and outdoor pollution
- Acid rains, consequences on soils, trees and cultivations. Effects on health.
- Indoor pollution: sick building syndrome, most common pollutants and their effects.

1.4 Greenhouse effect
- Emissions of energy from the ground, energy absorption by greenhouse gases
- Carbon dioxide; IR absorption, time variations, effects.
- Other greenhouse gases; aqueous vapor, nitrous oxide methane, CFC.
- How to reduce global warming.
- Carbon dioxide emissions and climate change:

2. Energy:
2.1 Fossil fuels
- Energy sources: fossil fuels, shale gas. Energy and carbon dioxide emission.
- Carbon dioxide capture and sequestration.
- Entities and consequences of global warming: consequences on the global water reserve and on glaciers.
- Paris Protocol 2015

2.2 Biofuels
- Biomass: definition. Biomass as an energy source. Conversion of biomass into biofuels: biological, physical and thermochemical.
- Life-Cycle Assessment, (LCA) and Systemic Thinking.
- Bioethanol. Bioethanol production: first and second generation methodologies.
- Biobutanol.
- SVO and Biodiesel. Production. Third generation biodiesel.
- (Bio) fuels for thermo-chemistry. SynGas, and water-gas shift reaction. Methanol and ethers.
- Hydrogen. Production from fossil fuels and water electrolysis. Storage as liquid pahse, compressed gas, metallic alloy or hydride compound. Direct combustion and generation of electricity. Fuel cells: PEMFC, AFC, PAFC, MCFC, SOFC, DMFC.

2.3 Renewable Energy Technologies.
- Sustainability concept. Renewable energies. Direct and indirect solar energy.
- Hydroelectric energy. Principles. Hydroelectric power plants. Typologies and environmental issues.
- Wind energy. Principles. Wind farms.
- Marine energy. Marine current power, tidal power, and wave power. Principles.
- Geothermal energy. Principles. Hydrothermal, geopressurized and petrothermal sources. EGS (Enhanced Geothermal Systems). Geothermal heat pumps.
- Direct, thermal and photovoltaic solar energy: differences.
- Low-temperature solar heating.
- Concentrated solar power: thermodynamic plants, typologies and differences. Heat transfer fluids and heliostats. Solar power towers and molten salt plants.
- Solar photovoltaic. PV cells: silicon, cadmium cells, organic and dye-sensitized solar cells (Gratzel cells).
- Storage of renewable energies.
- Analysis of the impact of alternative energies: the work of the REN21 group.

2.4 Radioactivity and nuclear energy
- Radioactive isotopes. The radioactive families.
- Principles of radioactivity. Radioactive decay modes: alpha, beta and gamma particles. Penetration of ionizing radiation. Health effects. Quantification of the absorbed radiation. Applications of ionizing radiation. Dating of archaeological and biological finds. Radioactive decay. First order kinetic decay curve. Radioactivity measurement unit.
- The Decay of Uranium-238.
- The Radon-222. Environmental and health issues.
- Nuclear energy: uranium fission-235. Actinide compounds from nuclear fission. Enrichment of uranium. Exhausted bars and reprocessing. Uranium depleted. CANDU heavy water nuclear reactors. Problems related to plutonium. Storage of nuclear waste.
- Nuclear energy: nuclear fusion and the ITER project.
- Nuclear energy in the world. Nuclear accidents: Chernobyl and Fukushima. Nuclear energy in Italy.

3. Water:
3.1 Natural Waters
- Water footprint and virtual water. Needs and domestic use.
- Water chemistry. Common reactions. Unit of measure.
- Solubility of gas and VOC.
- RedOx chemistry of water.
- BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand). Determination of BOD: BOD5 and UBOD: dilution and respirometric method.
- COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand). Determination of COD.
- Water carbon classification: TC, TIC, TOC, DOC, POC.
- Decomposition of organic matter in water.
- Sulfur compounds in natural waters. Sulfur, iron and acid drains of abandoned mines.
- The pE scale. PE/pH charts.
- Acid-base balance and solubility in water. The three-phase system: carbonate-bicarbonate-carbon dioxide.
- Other ions: fluoride, aluminium. Aluminium and acid rains.
- Alkalinity. Total alkalinity and carbonate alkalinity. Determination of alkalinity.
- Hardness. Total, permanent and temporary hardness.
- Sea water.

3.2 Potablization of water
- Potablization steps: aeration, sedimentation, colloidal particles removal, calcium and magnesium removal, disinfection.
- Disinfection: Physical and chemical methods. Disinfection by-products DBP.
- Point-of-use water disinfection: physical, chemical and biological methods.
- Filtration: simple, on activated carbon, on membranes, reverse osmosis.
- Potable water pollution: reverse osmosis, thermal, forward osmosis, nano/biofilters and extraction with decanoic acid.
- Disinfection of swimming pools.
- Pollutants distribution in groundwater.
- Groundwater decontamination methods: pump and treat, bioremediation, natural attenuation and permeable reactive barriers (PRB).

3.3 Wastewater
- Blackwater and greywater.
- Purification phase: primary (mechanical), secondary (biological), and tertiary (chemical) treatments. Phosphate removal, salinity reduction.
- The sludge line: primary and secondary.
- Phosphates in detergents and the problem of eutrophication.
- Constructed wetlands, septic tanks, cesspits.
- Removal of specific pollutants: elimination of cyanides.
- Modern decontamination techniques.
- Drugs pollution in wastewater.

4. Pollutants:
4.1 Heavy metals
- Heavy metals. Metals and environment. Speciation and toxicity.
- Mercury. Metallic and cationic mercury. Mercury amalgams: precious metal extraction, dental amalgams, chlor-alkali installation. Mercury (II): the felt-hat manufacture. Mercury in air: GEM, TPM, RPM. Organomercury compounds and their toxicity: methylmercury. Mercury in the human diet. Minamata disaster, Rosignano Solvay pollution, Bussi sul Trino landfill.
- Lead. Inorganic metallic and cationic lead. Lead and drinking water. Lead and natural water. Lead in pigments and batteries. Organolead compounds: tetraalkyl lead. Lead health effects: saturnism. Lead and poisoning in history.
- Cadmium. Applications and environmental sources. Ni-Cd batteries. Cadmium human intake.
- Chromium. Trivalent and hexavalent chromium. Health effects. Decontamination of chromium-polluted water with classic and modern approaches. Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) as a wood preservative.
- Arsenic. Trivalent and pentavalent arsenic. Anthropogenic and natural sources. Effects on human health. Arsenic in the telluric waters and its removal. Organoarsenic compounds. Arsine. Arsenic, the poison par excellence. Arsenic based drugs.
4.2 Pesticides
- Elementary toxicology. Toxicological indices. Dose-response relationship. Bioaccumulation: bioconcentration and biomagnification.
Risk assessment.
- Classification of pesticides.
- Organochlorine insecticides. The dirty dozen. DDT: history, synthesis, environmental issues, DDT in Italy.
- Organophosphorus Insecticides: Type A, B and C. Mechanism of action and antidotes. Environmental degradation.
The dark side of organophosphorus: the nerve gases.
- Carbamate insecticides.
- Natural insecticides: pyrethrin, pyrethroids and rotenone.
- Erbicides. Atrazine and chlorotriazinies. Mechanism of action, ecological and health hazards.
- Erbicides. Chloroacetamides, phenoxies and glyphosate.
- Environmental degradation and diffusion of pesticides: fugacity.
- IPM: Integrated Pest Management.
4.3 Other organic pollutants.
- Polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDDs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs). Chemistry, uses, sources and environmental distribution. Health effects, toxicity models: TEQ (Toxicity Equivalency Quotient) scale. Dioxin food contamination. Environmental pollution by dioxins: Seveso, Love Canal and Times Beach.
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs): sources, distribution in air and in water. Formation of PAHs. Cancerogenicity and sources of exposure.
- Endocrine disruptors. Mechanism of action. Alkylphenols, bisphenol-A, genistein, phthalates. Effects on animals and humans.
- Flame retardants for polymers. Mechanisms of action and burning of polymers. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), tetrabromobisphenol A, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD).
- Perfluorinated carboxylic acid and alcohols.

5. Waste and Soil:
- Domestic waste: components and disposal.
- Landfills and incinerators. Mechanisms of decomposition of waste and environmental issues.
- Reduction and recycling of household waste: glass, paper, aluminium, metals, plastics. Hazardous wastes.
- Soil and sediments.
- Soil chemistry: acidity and salinity.
- Sediments: pollutant resevoirs.
- Remediation, bioremediation and phytoremediation of soil and sediments.
Prerequisites for admission
- Fundamental concepts of general chemistry and stoichiometry
- Basic concepts of organic chemistry
The exams of General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry are compulsory prerequisites.
Teaching methods
- Live classes with examples and exercises.
- Educational visits (e.g.: water supply plant, water treatment plant, etc ...)
Teaching Resources
- Colin Baird - Michael Cann, "Chimica ambientale", 3rd ed. Italian, ZANICHELLI
- Manahan, "Chimica dell'ambiente", PICCIN (consultation)

Digital material:
Ariel website of teachers with: lesson slides, articles, videos, exam texts.
Assessment methods and Criteria
The final examination is a written test to be taken in two hours and covers all the topics of the program. It is divided into 25 questions, twenty multiple-choice (4 options, one exact), and four open-ended questions (exercises or textual questions).
CHIM/06 - ORGANIC CHEMISTRY - University credits: 0
Lessons: 64 hours
Educational website(s)
on appointment
DiSFarm - Sezione di Chimica Generale e Organica "A. Marchesini", via Venezian, 21 - Edificio 5, corpo A, 2° piano, stanza 2044