Foto del docente

Laura Tositti

Associate Professor

Department of Chemistry "Giacomo Ciamician"

Academic discipline: CHIM/12 Chemistry for the Environment and for Cultural Heritage


Keywords: Air Quality Radioactivity PM10, PM2.5, PMx...... Atmospheric chemistry Climate Change Air pollution chemistry Aerosol chemical speciation Source profiles and source apportionment Bioaerosol aeroplankton Radon Radioactivity measurement by HPGe Gamma spectrometry air pollution monitoring by low cost sensors

 My research activity is mainly focused on the study and experimental characterization of environmental inorganic species (both stable and radioactive) in connection with emission processes, transfer and removal of air pollutants from the atmosphere, i.e. the biogeochemistry of atmospheric aerosol.

The need to combine environmental surveys to technological and industrial development/evolution has offered the opportunity for experimental investigations addressed also to specific materials (train brakes) and / or processes / emission sources (power plants), integrating environmental expertise to the technological-productive processes. In addition to the experimental characterization of atmospheric aerosols, the research includes the extensive use of computational methods for the interpretation of the data, with particular reference to the techniques of Source apportionment: Chemical Mass Balance, Cluster Analysis, Principal Component Analysis and Positive Matrix Factorization, Cluster analysis of back-trajectories applied to experimental dataset  owned by the group (collab. NASA NIA, Virginia (USA); and Universidad Miguel Hernández de Elche, Departamento de Física y Arquitectura de Computadores, Spain). Presently vertical profiles of aerosol related parameters are being investigated either with the aid of stratospheric balloons (ESA-Bexus) or with UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) designed by the dept. of Aerial engineering of Bologna University (Prof F. Giulietti) and equipped with owned instrumentation.

This area of research includes characterization studies of the chemistry of precipitation, atmospheric deposition to the ground and Biomonitoring  by lichens

 Responsible for 12 years observations of aerosol properties at the WMO-GAW station of Mt. CIMONE (2173 m asl) in collaboration with ISAC-CNR, including airborne radiotracers



Airborne  gaseous and particle-reactive radiotracers (210Pb, 7Be and radon)  in the study of the dynamics of air pollution at background (Monte Cimone and Terra Nova Bay, Antarctica) and coastal sites

Radiochronology of recent depositional environments used as archives environmental and atmospheric fluxes of elements in peat bogs (Siberia), surface soil  and marine sediments

Artificial radioactivity: fallout from weapon tests  and Accidents (Chernobyl, and Fukushima Algeciras) - induced radioactivity in colour gemstones through processes of gemstone enhancement), nuclear medicine

Natural radioactivity: Radioactivity of rocks radon - TENORM (Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials): coal - production cycle of phosphate fertilizers - ceramic materials - solid wastes: waste incinerator, coal.



Measurements of radioactivity:

Alpha and gamma spectrometry with semiconductor detectors( HPGe) and NaI (both in the laboratory and in the field) - Measurements of radon (semiconductor ZnS (Ag), electretes, passive methods) - Geiger-Muller


Environmental analysis:


Samplers of atmospheric particulate PM10 and PM2.5 (Hydra Dual -FAI Instruments and Sioutas)

Cationic and anionic chromatography (Dionex –Thermo: isocratic ICS90 and gradient ICS2000) (analyzed several thousand samples of PM10 and PM2.5

Conductivity and pH probe

Ultrasonic bath


Optical Particle Counting (laser scattering ) with fixed instruments - Metone and portable - IST)

Blackcarbon with micro Aethalometer (Magee)

Multielemental analysis by PIXE (Proton Induced Xray Emission) facility at the INFN National Laboratories of Legnaro (PD) - AN2000 accelerator.

Processing techniques and data reduction by multivariate analysis - chemometrics (basic statistics, correlation analysis, factor analysis for major components and biplot Gabriel, Cluster analysis) - receptor models for source apportionment (PMF, PCA, cluster backtrajectories)

The research covers two main areas: Atmospheric Chemistry (chemical speciation of particulate and receptor modelling) and Environmental radioactivity, sometimes with remarkable overlap.

Atmospheric aerosol  is one of the air pollutants of greatest interest and relevance. Not only it constitutes a risk to the health of the population and a threat to the environment and to cultural heritage, but, due to the efficient mechanisms of transport and mixing in the atmosphere, it can transfer its dangerous content over long distances, up to produce the so-called transboundary pollution and even settle in remote regions of the planet, such as, for example, the polar or Siberian (chemical background of the planet). Atmospheric aerosol, consisting, as is well known, of both natural and anthropogenic components has a significant influence on the Earth's climate with components active both in cooling and warming processes. Aerosols are characterized at our lab on PM10, PM2.5. and size fractionated matrices through gravimetry, ion chromatography and multielemental analysis with PIXE (Proton Induced X-ray Spectrometry); recently chemical characterization has included ICP-MS for further trace inorganic analysis as well as the determination of carbon-related parameters such as for example Organic and Elemental Carbon. The areas investigated are the Po Valley, Antarctica and the background station WMO-GAW of Monte Cimone, on the top of the Northern Apennines.  L. Tositti is responsible since 1997 of the measures of airborne PM10 (fine atmospheric dust with a mean aerodynamic diameter <10 µm) and 7Be and 210Pb used as powerful atmospheric radiotracers. In particular, Be-7 and Pb210 data were included in various European projects now completed, while recently it has been the subject of an elaboration and a comparison with their counterparts in China Mt. Walinguan ; presently they are subject of further processing in collaboration with the Atmospheric modelling group of NASA NIA and with other researchers of the University of Elche (Spain). The importance of radiotracers, widely applied outside Italy in atmospheric studies and climate, lies in their little or no influence of anthropogenic emission on the same processes; thus they can be used as analysis unambiguous tracers (proxy) in dynamic simulation of stable chemicals of environmental and climate interest



Study of inorganic species (both stable and radioactive) in relation to processes of emission, transfer and removal from the atmosphere (biogeochemical cycle of atmospheric aerosol).

Chemistry of atmospheric aerosol PM10, PM2.5 and size-fractionated in urban environment (Bologna, Ferrara, Rimini, western Liguria) and in remote sites (Mt.Cimone station, Siberia, the Po Delta)

Aerosols in indoor tertiary environments

Aerosols emitted by train brakes

Aerosols in the air column from PBL to the stratosphere (ESA project BEXUS 2014)

Radioactivity in the environment, in production cycles and wastes

Radiotracers  in the study of the dynamics of air pollution at background (Monte Cimone and Terra Nova Bay, Antarctica)


Scientific Responsibilities as Principal Investigator in research projects

2017-ongoing: Compact low-cost multiprobes for atmospheric monitoring, including UAV and cultural heritage applications

2017-ongoing: Element speciation in airborne particulate matter through high energy methods (XAS, XPS, EXAFS- based on synchrotron application) Coll. with Marco Giorgetti, UNIBO Dept. Ind. Chemistry “Toso Montanari)

1996- to date: airborne radioactivity in the study of atmospheric circulation at the background WMO-GAW station “O. Vittori” (Northern Apennines, 2165 m a.s.l.): EU Projects VOTALP I, II), STACCATO in collab. with ISAC-CNR; more developments on the analysis of the collected dataset are still ongoing in collaboration with NASA/NIA and with the University of Elche, Spain) – Main focuses: Stratosphere-to- troposphere exchange, Saharan dust intrusions, PM10 source areas in the central Mediterranean basin (coll. Bonasoni e Cristofanelli ISAC-CNR)

2017-ongoing: Source apportionment of Airborne Particulate Matter in Val d’Agri oil field (Basilicata) (Formal Collaboration with Rosa Caggiano, IMAA-CNR, Tito Scalo (PZ))

2016-ongoing: New chemiluminescence and bioluminescence methods for the determination of airborne particulate matter toxicity via ROS production in collaboration with Stefano Girotti, Dept. Pharmacy and Biotechnology Univ. of Bologna

2016-2018: Impact of dust-laden African air masses and of stratospheric air masses in the Iberian Peninsula. Role of the Atlas mountains. Acrónimo: FRESA (MINISTERIO DE ECONOMIA Y COMPETITIVIDAD, Programa Estatal de I+D+i Orientada a los Retos de la Sociedad).

2015-ongoing: Chemical speciation and Source apportionment of airborne particulate matter in a highly impacted area in southern Apulia (funded, CTU Procura della Repubblica di Brindisi P r o c . N . 1 0 4 3 / 1 4 r . g . n . r . m o d 2 1 )

2015-ongoing: Atmospheric deposition of atmospheric pollutants as a function of an elevational gradient in the Terni district, central Italy (formal collaboration with D. Cappelletti Univ. Perugia, Dip. Chimica, Biologia e Biotecnologie)

2014-2016: Chemical speciation and Source apportionment of airborne particulate matter in an industrial district in inner Liguria (funded, CTU Procura della Repubblica di Savona, Procedimento Nr. 653/14 r.g.n.r. mod 21)

2014-2016: Chemical speciation and Source apportionment of airborne particulate matter in a highly impacted town in the Adriatic coast (funded, CTU Procura della Repubblica di Gorizia P r o c . N . 1213/13 R.N.R.I)

2014- ongoing: Geological and geochemical control on natural radioactivity and radon occurrence in the Euganean Hills district (Italy) (in coll. with the Dept. of Geosciences Univ. of Padua, funded)

2014-ongoing: Characterization of atmospheric aerosol profiles (from ground level up to 25 km) with stratospheric balloons (ESA Bexus-18 – Formal collaboration with CNRS/Univ. de Orléans)

2014: Radon in railway tunnel boring (funded, consultancy activity in favour of a private company)

2011: Assessment of indoor pollution levels in an office story building (consultancy activity in favour of Coop-Italia, funded)

2011: Follow up of the Fukushima atmospheric radioactive plume in Italy (follow up of Fukushima nuclear accident following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake)

2011-2013: Chemical speciation and Source apportionment of airborne particulate matter in a highly impacted town in the Ligurian coast (funded, CTU Procura della Repubblica di Savona Proc. N.2006/10/44 r.g.n.r)

2008-2010: Assessment of background levels of airborne particulate matter in the Po Delta area (funded, CTU Procura della Repubblica di Rovigo Proc. N. 4163/07)

2008-2010: MONITER, Monitoring of waste incinerators in Emilia Romagna Region (Responsible of the reserch unit on ion speciation for the whole project) (Regione Emilia Romagna, funded)

2008-2010: Natural radioactivity and radon potential in the Vulsini volcanic district

2007-2008: Levels of metal and non-metal elements in PM10 in the Ferrara Province (Progetto Obiettivo II, in coll. with ARPA-ER Environmental Protection Agency of Emilia Romagna, funded)

2008: Comparison of destructive (ICP-MS) and non-destructive (XRF, PIXE) methods in the determination of DL 155 elements in PM10 (Pb, As, Cd, Ni) (Progetto Polvere III, in coll. with ARPA-ER Environmental Protection Agency of Emilia Romagna, funded)

2007-2008: Physical and chemical characterization of airborne particulate emissions from train braking (Trenitalia, funded)

2007: Airborne particulate ion speciation (Fondazione CARISBO research contribution for research and instrumentation acquisition, awarded to L.Tositti )

2004-2006: SITECOS, Integrated study on the national territory for the characterization and control of the atmospheric pollutants”, PRIN 2004 project, MIUR, funded (chemical speciation of PM10 and PM2.5 in Bologna, Tositti local coordinator)

2004-2006: Chemical characterization of size-segregated aerosol in Bologna (Progetto Polvere II, in coll. with ARPA-ER Environmental Protection Agency of Emilia Romagna, Funded)

2002-2004: Atmospheric deposition of stable and radioactive pollutants in peat-bogs of central Siberia (coll. With the Physics Dept. of Bologna University, Tunguska cosmic body effects)

1984-1988: Atmospheric deposition of stable and radioactive pollutants in the Venice lagoon and recent radiochronological reconstruction by 210Pb dating

1986-1988: the distribution of radioactive pollution from Chernobyl accident in NE Italy

1985- 1988: Enhancement of natural radionuclides level in industrial processes: coal-fired power plants and phosphate-based fertilizers (from NORM to TENORM)

1989-2005: National Project of Research in Antarctica (funded): application of radiotracer methods to describe the biogeochemical cycle of atmospheric species in the Terra Nova Bay area (assessment of artificial radioactivity deposition in the Antarctic environment; radon and thoron ration in the study of the coastal circulation in the Ross Sea)

2005-2008: National Project of Research in Antarctica (funded): cycling of CO2 at the air/sea interface in the Ross Sea and climatic implications

2005- to date: National Project of Research in Antarctica (funded): Characterization of recent sediments in the Ross Sea with focus on biogenic components and links to Primary Production

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