72803 - Biotechnology for the Sustainable Reclamation of Contaminated Lands and Waters

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Docente: Fabio Fava
  • Credits: 6
  • SSD: ICAR/03
  • Language: English
  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Civil Engineering (cod. 8895)

    Also valid for Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Environmental Engineering (cod. 8894)

Learning outcomes

To provide the students with the basics for understanding the roles of microbial populations in natural and contaminated habitats and with the main microbial and technological aspects related the conduction and optimization of the prominent environmental biotechnological processes currently applied in the remediation of industrial wastewaters, sediments and sites contaminated by xenobiotic compounds.

Course contents

Chemical compounds released into the environment: their classification, source and fate as well as their environmental impact.

Main features, cellular organization and physiology of bacteria, fungi, algae and protozoa occurring in environments and/or applied in the environmental remediation processes.

Biotransformation of biogenic compounds occurring/released in the environment. Anabolic and catabolic pathways. Catabolism of biogenic organic matter in aerobic and anaerobic habitats and processes. Aerobic respiration: the glycolysis, the Krebs cycle and the oxidative phosphorylation. Examples of environmental relevant microorganisms respiring aerobically biogenic organic compounds. Anaerobic metabolism of organic matter: nitrate-reduction, Fe(III)-reduction, sulphate-reduction, HCO3- reduction (methanogenesis and acetogenesis) and main features of microorganisms using such anaerobic respiration routes. Fermentation of carbohydrates and proteins occurring in the environment and features of the main microorganisms responsible for it. Anaerobic digestion of organic matter and biowaste.

Metabolism of inorganic compounds in aerobic habitats or treatment processes, such as nitrification, S° or S= -oxidation, Fe(II) oxidation and industrial microbial leaching and main features of microorganisms responsible for them. Introduction on the CO2 autotrophic fixation and to the anoxygenic and oxygenic photosynthesis.

Sources and fate of main organic and inorganic xenobiotic compounds in contaminated soils, sediments and waters. Microorganisms mainly involved in their biotransformation and detoxification and biochemical-molecular mechanisms responsible for their adaptation to the pollutants. Biodegradation pathways for aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons, chlorinated and not, in aerobic and anaerobic polluted environments. Basis of biotransformation on heavy metals in polluted sites.

Contaminated sites: hydrogeology structure and fundamentals on contaminants transport and fate at the site (soil and groundwater). Approaches to the management of contaminated sites: containment and remediation. Main remediation technologies and types of ex-situ and in situ interventions.

Basis and specific microbiological and technological aspects related to bioremediation ex-situ and in situ of sites contaminated by organic xenobiotic compounds. Basis of the Monitored Natural Attenuation (MNA) and Enhanced Natural Attenuation (ENA). Basics of myco-, phyto- and rhizo-remediation.

Basics of physical-chemical remediation of soils under ex-situ conditions (soil flushing, soil washing, soil venting, chemical stabilization, incineration) and under in-situ conditions (thermal desorption and chemical stabilization). Physical-chemical remediation of contaminated groundwater under in-situ conditions (air sparging and permeable reactive barriers).

Basics on the main strategies for the (bio)remediation of contaminated sediments.


Madigan M.T. Martinko J.M., Stahl D.A. andClark D.P. (2012) Brock: Biology of Microorganisms. 13th Edition, Prentice Hall International, Inc . New Jersey, USA

Rittmann B.E., McCarty P.L. (2001) Environmental Biotechnology: principles and applications. McGraw-Hill Higher education, New York, USA

Teaching methods

Class lecturesplus optional training activities in the labs

Assessment methods

The exam consists inan oral interview in order toassess the methodological and critical skills acquired by the student. The student will be invited to discuss the topics coveredduring the lessons. The achievementof an organic vision of the issues addressed during the classes and theircritical use, which demonstrateownership of a mastery of expression and specific language, will be assessed with marks of excellence. Mechanical and / or mnemonic knowledge of matter, synthesis and analysis of non-articulating and / or correct language but not always appropriatewill lead to discrete assessments; training gaps and / or inappropriate language - although in a context of minimal knowledgeof the material - will lead to votes that will not exceed the sufficiency. Training gaps, inappropriate language, lack of guidance within the reference materials offered during the course will lead to failed assessments.

Teaching tools

Classroom lectures and seminars

Office hours

See the website of Fabio Fava