Geosciences for risk and environment management
Study-unit Code
Geosciences for environmental sustainability
Azzurra Zucchini
  • Azzurra Zucchini
  • Maximiliano Fastelli (Codocenza)
  • 42 ore - Azzurra Zucchini
  • 10 ore (Codocenza) - Maximiliano Fastelli
Course Regulation
Coorte 2023
Learning activities
Attività formative affini o integrative
Academic discipline
Type of study-unit
Opzionale (Optional)
Type of learning activities
Attività formativa monodisciplinare
Language of instruction
The course takes into account the use of minerals as raw materials in many industrial fields. Different typologies of industrial minerals are studied in terms of structural characteristics, properties and industrial processes they are involved in. In particular, the course focuses on cement industry, ceramics, refractories and glass industry.
The second part of the course will be devoted to sustainability and circular economy concepts:
1) Critical Raw Materials (CRM)
2) Upcycling of waste materials, with respect to downcycling techniques
3) Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) analysis
4) Design For Disassembly (DFD)
Reference texts
Material provided by the teacher.
Educational objectives
The course “Geomaterials and circular economy” has the aim to issue the direct relationship between mineralogy and industry. The student will deal with the principal industrial processes involving minerals and, at the end of the course, he/she will be able to address mineralogical issues in industrial processes as well as to undertake experimental studies to improve the environmental sustainability of industrial processes.

The main knowledges acquired will be:
- principal features of cements, ceramics, refractories and glasses industrial production;
- use of minerals in agriculture;
- knowledge about the mineralogical and crystallographic characteristics of minerals involved in the studied industrial processes;
- knowledge about some of the most used mineralogical and chemical analysis for the study of raw materials and products, their wastes and possibly re-uses;

The main competence acquired will be:
- ability to reproduce in lab some of the studied industrial processes;
- ability to analyze and consequently to choose the appropriate raw materials for each one of the studied industrial processes;
- ability to use some of the most used analytical techniques to study the raw materials as well as the industrial products: optical and electronic microscopy, X-ray diffraction, Raman and IR spectroscopy.
The teaching needs the students to know the basic concepts of systematic mineralogy and the principal features of some of the most used mineralogical analytical techniques (optical and electronic microscopy and X-ray diffraction). However, these arguments will be reviewed during the first part of the course.

In order to take the final exam, it is strongly recommended to have passed the final exam for the course "Mineralogy".
Teaching methods
The course is arranged with frontal lessons and practical exercises in lab. Field trips are also scheduled. In more details:
- face-to-face lessons in class to give the knowledge about the course topics;
- practical training in lab to reproduce some of the studied industrial processes;
- practical training on electronic and optical microscopy and X-ray diffraction analyses;
- practical training in the Raman spectroscopy lab;
- two daily field trips at industrial plants.
Learning verification modality
The exam consists of an oral test.

The first objective of the exam is to test the level of knowledge acquired by the student referring to both the theory and the practical aspects studied during the course. In particular, questions will be about (i) the studied industrial processes, (ii) the structures and characteristics of the minerals involved as raw materials in the studied industrial processes, (iii) the mineralogical processes occurring during the industrial processes, (iv) the studied analytical methodologies. Additionally, the grade will be assigned taking into account the student skills on linking between the characteristics of the industrial processes, the correct raw materials to be used and the suitable analytical techniques to study both the raw materials and the products. The oral test will be also evaluated depending on the student presentation skills and the adequacy of his/her technical/scientific language used.
Extended program
1. Review of key concepts in mineralogy and analytical methodologies
- Concept of mineral and systematic mineralogy.
- Chemical and mineralogical analyses: optical and electron microscopy, electron microprobe, X-ray diffraction, Raman and IR spectroscopy.

2. Geomaterials
- Geomaterials: definition.
- Industrial minerals: definition and treatment of groups of minerals used in industrial activities.
- Cements: raw materials, mineralogical composition of raw materials, production of cements, minerals of cements, characterization of the final products.
- Ceramics: raw materials, industrial ceramic materials (tiles, sanitary ware, artistic ceramics), production of ceramic materials, characterization of the finished product. Advanced ceramic materials.
- Geopolymers: raw materials and production processes.
- Micro- and meso-porous materials: properties and applications.
- Glass: mineralogical composition of raw materials, industrial production of glass, characterization of the finished product.

3. Environmental sustainability and circular economy
- Industrial waste from extractive activities, from chemical processes and from waste-to-energy combustion: chemical-physical characterization and determination of their dangerousness for the environment and human health.
- Critical Raw Materials (CRM): definition and introduction to the problem.
- Environmental sustainability and circular economy: definition and introduction to the issue.
- Upcycling techniques compared to downcycling techniques:
processes of regeneration of waste products towards second generation materials. Some examples: flotation, inertization, precipitation, solid-liquid separation, leaching, ion exchange, adsorption.
- Definition and discussion of examples of reuse of waste products as 2nd-generation materials (Eg: reconverted materials resulting from metal processing, power plants, waste water treatment, electrical and electronic materials).
- Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) analysis: definition and use for the quantification, in terms of energy consumption, of the impact on the environment of industrial processes that use second generation products, compared to traditional industrial processes.
- Concepts of Design For Disassembly (DFD), that is, the creation of products that are easy to disassemble so as to be able to separate the different materials and therefore to be recycled.

Seminars held by experts (Eg: chemists, agronomists, economists) will be offered.
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