07418 - Environmental Chemistry

Course Unit Page


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

Good health and well-being Affordable and clean energy Climate Action Life on land

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student attains the fundamental knowledge of structure, chemical-physical processes and interactions characterizing the different environmental sectors: air, water and soil. Moreover he will acquire the principles necessary to evaluate sources, behaviour and environmental impact of pollutants, considering in particular anthropic activities and industrial processes. Outlines related to the main emerging topics.

Course contents

Introduction to environmental chemistry

Outlines of Ecology and environmental sustainability. The complexity of the environmental processes: biogeochemical cycles. Pollutants: definitions, general chemical-physical properties and environmental behavior


Structure and chemical-physical characteristics of the atmosphere. Solar radiation and principles of Wien and Boltzmann laws. Stratospheric ozone, Chapman cycle and mechanisms inducing the “ozone hole” phenomenon. Earth energy balance, greenhouse gases, greenhouse effect and global warming. The troposphere. Planetary Boundary Layer. Sources, reactions and effects of the main inorganic and organic compounds (specifically OH radical, sulfur and nitrogen compounds, tropospheric ozone, VOC, IPA, dioxins, PCB, heavy metals). Photochemical smog. Particulate matter: classification, sources, chemical composition, environmental and health effects. Atmospheric depositions and acid rains.


Water chemical-physical properties. Hydrosphere, hydrologic cycle and characteristics of water bodies. Water chemistry. Dissolved gas in natural water; oxygen and carbon dioxide in the water bodies. BOD, COD. Henry’s Law. Stagnant film model. Alkalinity and acidity, hardness. Carbonate equilibria in natural waters. Metallic ions: Redox reactions, complexation and chelation, precipitation. Dissolved and particulate matter, sediment. Interactions between water and other phases. Main organic and inorganic water pollutants: sources, reactions and effects.


Geosphere and soil. Weathering processes. Processes and factors influencing the soil formation. Soil profile and horizons. Silicate and clay minerals structure. Organic compounds in soil. Humic and non-humic substances. Physical and chemical properties of soil. Organic and inorganic contaminants and their interaction with soil components: ion exchange, complexation, absorption and biodegradation.


Environmental pollution case studies.



- Elementary functions: powers, roots, exponential and logarithm. Algebraic equations (Course: Mathematics with exercises)

- Dimensional formulae and physical units. (Course: Physics)

- Chemical reactions and conservation of mass. The gaseous state. Pressure and temperature of a gas- Mixtures of gases and Dalton law of partial pressures- Homogeneous chemical equilibrium- Concentration units- Equilibrium constants and their use - Equilibria in solution- Ionic product of water- pH- Definitions of acids and bases- Solutions of strong acids and bases and their pH- Solutions of weak acids and bases and their pH- Polyprotic acids- Hydrolysis of salts and pH- Buffered solutions and titration- Solubility (Course: General and Inorganic Chemistry with Laboratory)

- Classification of organic compounds (including natural organic compounds: proteins, sugars, fatty acids, etc.). (Course: Organic Chemistry with Laboratory)

- Knowledge of Thermodynamics. Phase equilibria in one-component and multi-component systems. The law of the ideal gas state. Molar fraction and partial pressure. First and second law of thermodynamics. Physical transformations of pure substances. Simple mixtures. Principles of photochemistry and radicalic reactions. (Course: Physical Chemistry)



Key concept in Environmental Chemistry G. Hanrahan . Ed. Academic Press; http [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/book/9780123749932

Manahan S E. Environmental Chemistry, Seventh Edition, CRC Press 1999, http://www.crcnetbase.com/isbn/978-1-56670-492-2

Seinfel J.H., Pandis S.N. Atmospheric chemistry and physics, Wiley,1998

Stumm W, Morgan J.J. Aquatic chemistry, Wiley, 1996

Baird C., Cann M., Environmental Chemistry. W.H. Freeman & Company, 2012

[Althought warmly recommended to the students for widening their knowledge of the various topics, these books are not formally adopted as textbooks nor followed in a detailed way]

Notes and slides are available online: https://presente.unibo.it

Teaching methods

Frontal lesson with PC presentation; reactions, examples and exercises will be explained at the blackboard.

The course could include seminars andconferences on specific subjects.

Assessment methods

Oral Exam aimed at verifying the knowledge of the subjects presented along the course.


In order to sit for the examination, it is necessary to enter one's name in the list through AlmaEsami. Those who are not able to register themselves in time, must tell it to the teacher, who however have the faculty of admitting them to the exam.

Teaching tools

Video projection, PC, dashboard, slide and notes from the lectures and other didactic material make available by the teacher.

Office hours

See the website of Ivano Vassura