Environmental physics

A.Y. 2020/2021
Overall hours
Learning objectives
Students are introduced to the application of physics to environmental problems (from climate change to air pollution). In addition, the course deals with state-of-the-art experimental and modelling approaches widely used in the environmental research field. The main goal of the course is to draw students to the complexity and multi-disciplinary character of the applications of physics to the study of the environment and processes governing it.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course, students:
1. will be able to discuss about environmental issues related to the atmosphere using the correct scientific approach and dealing with the multiple interactions among different components and formation/transformation/deposition processes;

2. will be able to describe physical-chemical processes underlying the themes of interest (E.g. greenhouse effect, ozone hole, photochemical smog, atmospheric aerosols, ) both in terms of their phenomenology and using proper theory;

3. will know experimental methods and principles of operation to characterise physical-chemical-optical properties of atmospheric components;

4. will know basic principles of modelling approaches to study and forecast atmospheric pollutants.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
Lectures will be given on-line on Zoom. As in previous editions, slides and additional papers are available at the course website on the Ariel platform. Students are encouraged to stay updated looking at the above mentioned website.
Course syllabus
Main topics are:
- Atmosphere's structure and composition. The planetary boundary layer: physical properties and methodologies for its characterisation. Radiation-matter interaction (scattering, absorption and extinction processes).
- The Greenhouse effect. Earth-Sun radiative balance. Greenhouse gases properties. The role of atmospheric aerosols: direct and indirect radiative forcing. Current situation and international policies.
- Stratospheric ozone: production and destruction chemical reactions. Ozone global distribution. The "ozone hole": the role of chemical reactions and atmospheric dynamics. The polar stratospheric clouds and heterogeneous chemistry reactions. Linkage between stratospheric ozone and climate
- Tropospheric ozone and photochemical smog. Chemical reactions of ozone production and destruction. Measurement methods and current legislation. Effects on human health and vegetation. Typical patterns in different environments.
- Gaseous pollutants: Carbon, Nitrogen and Sulphur compounds. Emission sources. Effects on human health and the environment. Measurement methods and current legislation.
- Introduction to dispersion models for air quality studies: Eulerian and Lagrangian models.
- Atmospheric aerosols: formation processes and emission sources. Physical-chemical characteristics: size, morphology, surface area, and composition. Impacts on environment, human health, and cultural heritage. Introduction to: nucleation phenomena, aerosol dynamics in the atmosphere and deposition processes, electrical and optical properties.
Sampling methods and filtration theory.
Experimental techniques for characterising optical properties of atmospheric aerosol. Analytical techniques for the detection of the elemental (e.g. ED-XRF, IBA, INAA, ICP-MS, ), ionic (IC), and carbonaceous (e.g. TOT) components of atmospheric aerosol. Current legislation.
- Introduction to receptor models for aerosol source apportionment.
Prerequisites for admission
Basic knowledge on classical and modern physics.
Teaching methods
Lectures (42 h). Course attendance is strongly suggested. Master degree students are the students targeted by this course.
Teaching Resources
- Slides of each lecture and additional materials (e.g. scientific papers or reports) available on the Ariel platform at www.unimi.it
- J.H. Seinfeld, S.N. Pandis: "Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics", John Wiley & sons
- H.B. Singh: "Composition, Chemistry and Climate of the Atmosphere", Van Nostrand Reinhold
- W.C. Hinds: "Aerosol Technology. Properties, behavior and measurement of airborne particles", Wiley Interscience
- Colbeck I., Lazaridis M. "Aerosol Science. Technology and Applications", Wiley Interscience
Assessment methods and Criteria
Oral exam. The exam will last 1 hour (approx).
The knowledge related to the variety of scientific topics faced during the year will be verified together with the theorical approach and the experimental/modelling techniques widely used to study specific processes/parameters. In detail, the comprehension of the complex system "atmosphere", the physics underneath the phenomena of interest, and the ability of explaining the inter-relation among different topics seen during the course.
FIS/07 - APPLIED PHYSICS - University credits: 6
Lessons: 42 hours
Professor: Vecchi Roberta
by appointment
office at the Physics Dept. (via Celoria 16), building E, room n.R007