Environmental physics laboratory

A.Y. 2020/2021
Overall hours
Learning objectives
Students will be introduced to air quality issues (with a special focus on particulate matter and its properties). State-of-the -art experimental methodologies to study atmospheric and environmental physics phenomena are used by students in the laboratory. In addition, students are introduced to environmental data reduction, analysis and interpretation.
Expected learning outcomes
Expected learning outcomes (nuovo testo da inserire in W4)
At the end of the laboratory, students:
1.will gain basic knowledge on physical-chemical properties of atmospheric particulate matter and the ability of treating this item in the air quality context;
2. will be able to perform particulate matter collection on filters and to describe size-segregated sampling based on inertial impaction theory;
3. will be able to describe electronic chains to perform alfa and ED-XRF spectrometry;
4. will use specific software to perform spectral deconvolution;
5. will perform qualititative and quantitative XRF analysisi on thin samples;
6. will perform on-line alpha spectrometry to detect short-lived Radon decay products. Students will be able to analyse collected spectra and relate results to atmospheric dispersione conditions;
7. will realise a range-to-energy curve using an alpha spectrometer;
8. will perform off-line alpha spectrometry to detect long-lived Radon decay products in atmospheric aerosol samples. Students will be able to analyse results to retrieve particles residence time;
9. will be able to use a sound meter for environmental purposes and to plan a measurement campaign to assess indoor/outdoor sound levels.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
In semester 2 the laboratory will be given in traditional form with students in lab. In case of unexpected sanitary emergency, laboratory experience will be carried out on-line on Zoom and students will be trained on data analysis and modelling techniques devoted to the analysis of datasets comprising atmospheric pollutants and meteorological variables.
Course syllabus
List of experiments (a selection of them will be available every year. Those selected will be described during the presentation of all laboratories which is given every year):
- "Atmospheric aerosol". Measurements of atmospheric aerosol mass concentration and size distribution: filters preparation, PM10/PM2.5/PM1 gravimetric measurements, sampling by single stage and/or multi stage impactors, assessment of size distribution and number concentration by Optical Particle Counter;
- "Noise measurements". Acoustic measurements in the lab (calibration of a sound level meter, sum of sound levels, spatial decay, weighing curves). Noise measurements in different environments (Leq evaluation, analysis on 1/3 octave band, frequency distributions).
- "XRF spectrometry". Elemental concentration measurements by Energy Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence in atmospheric aerosol samples (system calibration for quantitative analysis of aerosol samples collected on filters).
- "alpha- spectrometry". Radon decay products concentration measurements to assess atmospheric aerosol residence time and atmospheric stability conditions (set-up of the system and measurements).
- "Meteorological parameters". Analysis of meteorological parameters datasets aiming at characterising episodes or time trend patterns.
- "Air pollution". Analysis of gaseous pollutants and particulate matter data recorded by the environmental agency monitoring network. Characterization of air pollution episodes, atmospheric processes or time trend patterns.
Prerequisites for admission
Basic knowledge on classical and modern physics.
Teaching methods
Lectures to introduce students to the topic and instrumentation. Description of the experimental activities.
Teaching Resources
- Slides of each lecture and additional materials (e.g. scientific papers or reports) available on the Ariel platform at www.unimi.it
- P. Brimblecombe: "Air Composition and Chemistry", Cambridge Environmental Chemistry series
- J.H. Seinfeld, S.N. Pandis: "Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics", John Wiley & sons
- J. H. Wallace, P.V. Hobbs: "Atmospheric Science", Academic Press
Assessment methods and Criteria
Oral presentation on experimental activities (theory, experimental methods and discussion of results) in a workshop attended by all students. All students, at the end of the laboratory activities, will share their results during data analysis sessions organised and supervised by the teacher. Each student will be given a topic to be presented at the workshop and her/his comprehension will be tested with questions on the whole program. The final mark will consist in the evaluation of the student's performance and preparation during the experimental part of the laboratory as well as the depth of knowledge acquired by the student and the quality of the oral presentation.
FIS/07 - APPLIED PHYSICS - University credits: 6
Laboratories: 48 hours
Lessons: 14 hours
Professor: Vecchi Roberta
Educational website(s)
by appointment
office at the Physics Dept. (via Celoria 16), building E, room n.R007