Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Environmental Chemistry

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION In this study-unit, students consider three main environmental reservoirs, namely, the atmosphere, freshwaters and the ocean. The atmosphere is considered in greater detail than the aqueous reservoirs. The chemistry of the 'natural' environment and also the sources and fates of the major chemical species known to be introduced into this environment are studied. The regulatory frameworks adopted by national and international bodies in order to protect the environment from chemical pollution are considered.

Study-unit Aims

The study-unit aims to illustrate the challenges involved in studying the chemical composition of the natural environment as defined by atmosphere, natural waters and the ocean and the effects on these environmental reservoirs of substances introduced therein as a result of activity by mankind. Students consider the approaches taken to explain systems where the data is incomplete and the models employed to explain the observations are approximate.

Learning Outcomes

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

1. Describe the structure of the atmosphere and explain the sources of the trace components in the boundary layer and explain the role of photochemistry and free radicals such as hydroxyl in determining the fate of species in the atmosphere;
2. Account for the greenhouse effect and describe and explain why international efforts in controlling emissions of the gas have only been partially successful;
3. Describe the 'ozone hole' phenomenon and the role of anthropogenic substances;
4. State the main gaseous and particulate pollutants from combustion of fuels, explain their formation and describe their environmental impact, including the technologies employed for their abatement;
5. Distinguish between target and limit values for ambient concentrations of air pollutants and know the principal conventions intended to control air pollution;
6. Describe and distinguishing different forms of smog and account for the formation of PAN in smog and PAH in combustion-derived particles;
7. Explain the presence of air pollutants such as VOCs and particles from non-combustion sources and how odours are measured;
8. Describe the physical dispersion of air pollutants by the Gaussian Plume model;
9. Describe the environmental chemistry of natural waters in terms of dissolution and precipitation reactions involving minerals and substances in air;
10. Describe the main treatment processes used for the purification of drinking water;
11. Explain the environmental hazard from pesticides in water, the significance of Kow and some typical analytical approaches to pesticides;
12. Manipulate mass balance and charge equations to describe the species distribution in water typified by the carbonate system;
13. Describe the ocean as a biogeochemical environment and explain how salinity and other parameters change down the water column and at the water-air interface;
14. Explain the surface characteristics of marine sediments and suspended particles;
15. Describe the chemical composition of petroleum and explain how it can be analysed in the environment;
16. Explain the fate of the substances in petroleum dispersed in the ocean.

2. Skills:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

1. Apply chemical and physico-chemical principles to interpret the phenomena of environmental chemistry and pollution;
2. Employ approximate numerical models to solve complex problems as are frequently encountered in environmental chemistry.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings

(1) S E Manahan, Environmental Chemistry (9th Ed), Lewis, 2009.
(2) R M Harrison, Principles of Environmental Chemistry, Royal Society of Chemistry Publishing, 2007.
(3) G W vanLoon and S J Duffy, Environmental Chemistry, a Global Perspective (3rd Ed), Oxford University Press, 2011.
(Texts available at Library).

ADDITIONAL NOTES Pre-Requisite Study-unit: CHE2080


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Progress Test SEM1 No 15%
Online Examination (2 Hours) SEM1 Yes 85%

LECTURER/S Alfred J. Vella

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.