69664 - Environmental Chemistry

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Elena Bernardi

  • Learning modules Elena Bernardi (Modulo 1)
    Daniele Cespi (Modulo 2)

  • Credits 5

  • SSD CHIM/12

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures (Modulo 1)
    Traditional lectures (Modulo 2)

  • Language English

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Advanced Spectroscopy in Chemistry (cod. 5706)

  • Teaching resources on Virtuale


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

Good health and well-being Sustainable cities Responsible consumption and production Climate Action

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

After completing the course, the student will have the basic knowledge of the structure and the chemical-physical processes characterizing natural and anthropized environments. Furthermore, the student will acquire the basics to understand and investigate possible interactions between environments and different classes of materials

Course contents


Basic knowledge of general, inorganic, organic and physical chemistry. Basic knowledge of the main analytical and spectroscopic techniques.

Course contents

The Course will be organized in two different modules, the contents of which are related and reported below. In addition, under the guidance of the teachers, students will carry out a research and discussion activity on a specific topic concerning the course.

  Module 1
  • Introduction to environmental chemistry and environmental sustainability.
  • Biogeochemical cycles. Definition of pollutant and description of the possible path of a chemical substance in the environment according to its chemical-physical properties. Material-environment system, concepts of decay and durability of materials.
  • Structure and chemical-physical characteristics of the atmosphere.
  • Stratospheric ozone and mechanisms inducing the “ozone hole” phenomenon.
  • Greenhouse gases, greenhouse effect, global warming and climate change.
  • Sources, reactions, phenomena and effects, both on the environment and on materials, of the main inorganic and organic tropospheric pollutants, in particular sulfur and nitrogen compounds, VOC, tropospheric ozone and other photochemical smog products, particulate matter.
  • Atmospheric depositions, acidification and eutrophication phenomena.
  • Methodologies and techniques for studying the interaction environment-materials. Dose-response functions, Critical Loads and Exceedances.

   Module 2

  • Introduction to LCA methodology: framework, standardization and tools.
  • Boundaries selection: laboratory gate or industrial scale?
  • Environmental indicators to address potential impacts: criteria for selection.
  • LCA application to different classes of materials and compounds.
  • Assessing the environmental sustainability to support decision making: labels and certificates.
  • Product and Organisation Environmental Footprint: an overview of the EU standardization strategy.



- Teaching material (power point presentations and, if necessary, scientific reports, environmental declarations, peer-review articles, etc.) will be available online on the Platform Virtuale (https://virtuale.unibo.it/) for all the students enrolled in the course. Any passwords necessary to access the documents will be provided by the teacher.

- Lecture notes


Although recommended to the students for widening their knowledge of the various topics, these books are not formally adopted as textbooks or fully followed.

Stanley E. Manan, Environmental Chemistry, Ninth Edition, CRC Press 2010 (ebook)

Grady Hanrahan, Key concepts in environmental chemistry, Elsevier (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/book/9780123749932)

Seinfeld & Pandis, Atmospheric chemistry and physics: from air pollution to climate change, Wiley & Sons, Third Edition, 2016 (eBook)

Brimblecombe P., Urban Pollution and Changes to Materials and Building Surfaces. Imperial College Press, 2016

M. A. Curran, Life Cycle Assessment Student Handbook, Scrivener Publishing LLC, John Wiley & Sons [https://www.wiley.com/], 2015 (ebook).

Teaching methods

Frontal lesson with the help of PC presentations and videos. Free apps for smartphones can be used as support for interactive sessions of questioning and self-evaluation.

During the course, individual or group activities (such as research, presentation and discussion on a specific topic concerning the course) will be proposed.

The course could include seminars and conferences on specific subjects.

The frequency of the lessons plays an important role in understanding the issues addressed, their interconnection and environmental implications.

The course is usually held in classroom-based mode. Possible changes due to the COViD-19 emergency are published at https://www.unibo.it/en/university/covid-19-The-measures-adopted-by-the-University-of-Bologna/covid-misure-universita-di-bologna.

Assessment methods

The assessment method consists in an oral interview at the end of the course with the aim to assess the achievement of the following learning outcomes:

  • knowledge of the structure and the chemical-physical processes characterizing natural and anthropized environments
  • knowledge of the main pollutants, their sources, behavior and effects in the environment
  • knowledge of the overall structure of the LCA methodology and its application
  • ability to apply the knowledge acquired to interpret and evaluate possible interactions among pollutants, environment and materials and to identify potential environmental impacts related to human activities.
  • ability to identify the different life cycle phases of the products and compounds and to understand the main environmental indicators.
  • ability to understand the structures and usage of the several LCA-based schemes and certificates

The relevance, completeness and clarity of the response; the ability to synthesize (where required); the achievement of an organic and critical vision of the issues addressed and the use of a proper scientific language will be positively evaluated. The discussion and evaluation of the results of the activities eventually carried out by the student during the course will concur to the final score for the 33%.

The evaluation is expressed in thirtieths; at least 18 points have to be obtained to pass the exam, laude is given to exams very well performed.

During the test it is not allowed the use books or lecture notes.

In order to attend the examination, it is necessary to enrol for the exam through AlmaEsami service (https://almaesami.unibo.it/) before the deadline (usually one week prior the exam date and visible under “Exam sessions” in the Teaching page of the teacher website).

Students with disabilities or DSA are suggested to request support at least 15 days before the day of the exam, sending an email to both the teacher and the Student Service with Disabilities and DSA of the University of Bologna (see http://www.studentidisabili.unibo.it/).

Teaching tools

PC and projector, blackboard, Virtual Learning Environment "Virtuale", free Apps for Smartphones.

Students with disability or learning disability can contact the Student Services for Disabilities and DSA of the University of Bologna (http://www.studentidisabili.unibo.it/ ; website in Italian only) and the Department contact person (Prof. Giorgio Bencivenni, giorgio.bencivenni2@unibo.it) or the teacher to address the most convenient approach for accessing teaching materials and supports, and to gain access to all the convenient services and areas of the Departments (i.e. room for frontal lectures).

Office hours

See the website of Elena Bernardi

See the website of Daniele Cespi