10584 - Atmospheric Physical Chemistry

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Riccardo Tarroni

  • Credits 4

  • SSD CHIM/02

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language Italian

  • Campus of Rimini

  • Degree Programme First cycle degree programme (L) in Chemistry and Technologies for the Environment and Materials (cod. 8514)

  • Course Timetable from Feb 23, 2022 to Apr 01, 2022


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The aim of this course is to broaden the knowledge of physical chemistry given by the fundamental courses, with particular attention to the environmental issues. The student will learn the basic concepts of molecular spectroscopy. Subsequently, the most modern spectroscopy-based techniques of investigation of the atmosphere will be described in detail. The final part of the course deals with nuclear chemistry

Course contents


  •  Basic knowledge of the differential and integral calculus for functions of one real variable
  • Scalar and vector physical quantities. Rotational motion. Angular speed. Angular acceleration. Simple harmonic motion. Harmonic oscillator. Harmonic oscillator with two masses. Rotational kinetic energy. Moment of inertia. Theory of electromagnetism in vacuum and in matter. Interference between plane waves.
  • General principles of quantum mechanics.  Properties of the electrons. Electronic structure of atoms. Atomic and molecular spectroscopy (rotational, vibrational, electronic).

Part I: Molecular spectroscopy
Light-matter interaction. Atomic and molecular spectroscopy.
High resolution spectroscopy: rotational, vibrational, electronic.
Part II: Physical chemistry of the atmosphere. Composition of the atmosphere. Definition of mixing ratio and number density.
Dependence of the atmospheric pressure and temperature on altitude. The Earth's atmosphere layers. Principal and secondary atmospheric gases.
Residence time of trace gases. Dependence of the atmospheric composition. Measurement of the atmospheric composition.
The stratospheric ozone problem. Dobson units. Chapman's cycle of ozone. Mechanisms of ozone destruction: effects of water, nitrogen oxides, chlorofluorocarbons. Mechanism of formation of the ozone hole in the Antarctic region.
The black body radiation. Wien's and Stefan-Boltzmann's laws.
Emittance spectra of the Sun and the Earth. Earth's energy budget.
Simplified model of the greenhouse effect. Radiative forcing and Global Warming Potential (GWP) of a greenhouse gas.
Part III: Nuclear chemistry
Radioactivity: discovery and first applications. Nuclear equations.
Elementary particles and fundamental forces. The atomic nucleus. Alpha decay. Beta decay. Decay by electron capture. Nuclear binding energy. Rate law of radioactive decay. Half-life of a radionuclide. Activity of a radioactive source. Biological effects of radiations.
Natural radioactivity. Primordial and cosmogenic radionuclides. Radioactive series. The problem of radon. Artificial radioactivity. Nuclear fission.
Using the fission for energy production (nuclear reactors)
Preparation of nuclear fuel from natural uranium.
Nuclear waste problem.
Part IV: Refrigerator Cycles
Direct and inverse thermodynamic cycles. Thermodynamic cycles for gases (one phase). Thermodynamic cycles for vapors (two phases). Vapor-compression cycle. Operating principles of vapor-compression refrigeration machines.
Coefficient of performance of refrigeration equipment.
Classification of refrigerants.
Absorption refrigerators.


P. Atkins, J. de Paula, Chimica Fisica (V edizione), Zanichelli

Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry, by Daniel J. Jacob [http://www-as.harvard.edu/people/faculty/djj], Princeton University Press, 1999.

C. Baird, Chimica Ambientale, Zanichelli.

M. Ragheb, Nuclear, Plasma and Radiation Science, http://mragheb.com/NPRE%20402%20ME%20405%20Nuclear%20Power%20Engineering/

Guido Visconti, Fundamentals of Physics and Chemistry of the Atmospheres, Springer

Teaching methods

All subjects are discussed in detail during the lectures. Students are invited to participate with questions and comments.

Assessment methods

The exam is oral. The student is asked with questions on each of the main topics: molecular spectroscopy, physical chemistry of the atmosphere, nuclear chemistry, thermodynamic cycles

Teaching tools

Powerpoint slides

Office hours

See the website of Riccardo Tarroni