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Ambient airborne particulate (PM10, PM2.5, size fractionated) in Bologna and rural and remote locations

Territorial Aspects

University of Bologna Team Leader: Tositti Laura - Associate Prof. - Dep. of Chemistry «Giacomo Ciamician»

University of Bologna Research Group: Prof. Laura Tositti, Silvia Parmeggiani, Giorgia Cinelli (PhD student), Federico Carotenuto (environmental sciences student).

Partner/Collaborations: ARPA-EMR, CNR-IBIMET, LNL-INFN, CNR-ISAC.

Context and objectives

The group expertise is mainly focused on the physical and chemical characterization of ambient airborne pollutants with major emphasis on ambient aerosol. This pollutant plays a key role in transferring active chemicals present in the air onto exposed surfaces, resulting in problems of greatest concern not only in the case of the threatening of human health as well as of the whole biosphere but also for the world of cultural heritage. The comprehension of the mechanisms of degradation induced by airborne particulate requires its detailed and expert characterization in association with the territorial and environmental context upon which this pollutant is strongly dependent.

Methodologies and equipment

  • Sequential PM10 and PM2.5 sampler (FAI-instruments, Hydra Duo)
  • Optical Particle Counter (TSI)
  • Ion Chromatographs (Dionex ICS90 and ICS2000)
  • Multielemental non-destructive analysis by PIXE
  • High sensitivity balances
  • Radon monitors


This unit has a long term experience in aerosol science started in 1996 with PM10 measurements at one of the most important climatological research stations in Europe i.e. Mt. Cimone. Since then the group has devoted many years to build up experience in this challenging field of research which recently led to the complete chemical characterization of airborne particulate in the town of Bologna and its source apportionment in the framework of research projects funded either by the Regional Environmental Agency, started in 2003 and partly still in progress, or by the Italian Ministry of University and Scientific Research. At present a new investigation is being carried out in Bologna with the aim of studying the influence of the medieval porticos, a typical feature of its architectural framework, upon the atmospheric distribution of airborne pollutants along the so-called "urban street canyons".

Other studies have been devoted to the characterization of aerosol chemistry in the town of Rimini and Ferrara as well as of background stations both in rural and mountain location, while other investigations have concerned the physico-chemical characterization of aerosol source emissions (municipal waste incinerators, train brakes, vehicle platinum-group catalyzers) requiring not only analysis of environmental samples but also of the materials involved in particle evolution and emission from the sources themselves. This has largely been made possible by the profound experience collected in PIXE applications carried out at the LNL-INFN large scale facility. This nuclear technique based on the use on Van de Graf accelerator is long being successfully employed world-wide both in environmental science and in cultural heritage research providing an unsubstitutable tool in discerning the nature and the origin of the materials investigated. We are presently working on the optimization of the experimental setup for PIXE analysis of glass.