81758 - Atmospheric 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 Industry, innovation and infrastructure Climate Action

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students will get an appropriate understanding of the chemical and physico-chemical processes occurring in the atmosphere, with special focus on problems related to ozone layer, greenhouse effect and tropospheric pollution both in the gaseous and in the heterogeneous phases (aerosol). In particular, students will gain the basic knowledge necessary to set up experimental design in the various compositional atmospheric problems (monitoring, trend and time series analysis, processes related to aerosol, outdoor and indoor environments); will possess the mathematical and informatic tools used in investigation methods; will get chemical and physical concepts needed to carry out qualitative and quantitative evaluations of the impact of processes induced by anthropic activity on the atmosphere by means of receptor-models and source-apportionment techniques.

Course contents

This course provides a detailed overview of the chemical composition of the atmosphere with emphasis on key trace species responsible for air quality and climate change problems. The course includes two modules

Module 1: Beside introducing the importance of traces species, the evolution of their concentration in time and space at short, medium and large scale is explained together with the experimental tools which make these observation available (detection and measurement). Composition of the atmosphere under natural and polluted conditions

The concepts of secondary pollutants and atmospheric lifetime of chemical species in the atmosphere are provided in connection with atmospheric transport and their impacts on the environment, health and climate

Photochemistry and other relevant chemical processes will be introduced in order to explain classical and photosmog basics; stratospheric ozone depletion; oxidation chemistry of the troposphere; sources and sinks of greenhouse gases and other climate forcers.

A specific section of the course is devoted to aerosol chemistry and physical chemistry including sources and sinks, classification by size, composition and morphology, concept of primary and secondary aerosol, aerosol metrics, aerosol sampling and measurements, air quality and climate involvements of aerosol


Module 2: Module 2 introduces to receptor modeling and source apportionment techniques, complementary to dispersion models treated in other courses. The course will introduce to the main characteristics, the hypotheses and the requisites to be satisfied, the considerations and the analyses to carry out prior to the development of the proper receptor model. After that, the main typologies of receptor models will be illustrated, with a special focus to some categories applied over the chemical composition of particulate matter with examples also practical. Finally, hybrid models, adding also dynamical knowledges on wind and/or back-trajectories to further support the results of receptor modeling will be introduced. The module includes the solution of case studies.


Slides and notes by L.Tositti (Module 1) and by E.Brattich (Module 2)

Papers and reviews of recent publication (Oxydation capacity of the atmosphere; aerosols) provided by L.Tositti

Jeremy Colls, Abhishek Tiwary: Air Pollution: Measurement, Modelling and Mitigation, Third Edition, 2009, CRC Press.

John H. Seinfeld, Spyros N. Pandis : Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics: From Air Pollution to Climate Change, 2nd Edition, John Wiley & Sons, Dec 18, 2012.

Teaching methods

Frontal lessons with PowerPoint presentations, study support by textbooks, articles and reports to check and consolidate topics treated in class

Course includes direct research experience in the field by the teachers and classwork on the E. Brattich's Module 

Advice and explanations provided on appointment


Assessment methods

Oral examination ( about half an hour) on three topics among those treated within the course

Office hours

See the website of Laura Tositti

See the website of Erika Brattich