ECPL – Environmental Chemical Processes Lab

The Laboratory ECPL (DICCA) at Savona-Campus is located in Palazzina Marchi [staff:  Prof. Ombretta Paladino, Dott. Francesca Fissore, Ph.D., Dott.Ing. Arianna Moranda].

The main research activities carried out in ECP Lab are: dynamic modelling of chemical processes and reactors, transport of reactive pollutants in groundwater (especially PAHs, chlorinated organics and heavy metals), development of non-invasive monitoring techniques. Related applications are:  process control and operation, industrial and health risk assessment, waste-treatment processes and site remediation, energy from renewable sources.

1.Dynamics, monitoring  and control of chemical processes

2. Chemical risk assessment and environmental pollution, treatment processes and site remediation

3. Waste to energy and renewables

4. Labs main equipment and students activity

1. Dynamics, monitoring and control of chemical processes

This research activity is mainly developed in collaboration with industry and public bodies. The aim is to suggest methodologies and develop tools for optimal plant operation while reducing environmental impact and hazards due to the industrial activities.  Some applications are the development of fault-diagnosis procedures in Zero Liquid Discharge Systems, deep knowledge and neural networks based tools for operation of waste water treatment plants; early-warning systems for controlled stirred chemical reactors and start-ups and shut-downs optimization.

The main research product  is , a real time web-based monitoring tool that acquires, manages, smooths, aggregates, historicizes and shows process and plant data or events (more info). is a low cost product and uses open sw & open hw.

is currently in use for monitoring/control of  lab-scale continuous stirred tank reactors operated for studying micro-algae growth, and for  remote-controlled monitoring and alarm management of two pilot-scale plants in which micro-algae are used for wastewater treatment (LIFE Founded Project);


Students are involved in these activities (visits during classes and M.Sc. thesis).


2. Chemical risk assessment and environmental pollution, treatment processes and site remediation

Chemical pollution and the related environmental/ health risk can be due to controlled or uncontrolled releases. In the former case assessing risk requires the dynamic modeling of multi-pathway and multi-route exposure and the evaluation of the effects of relevant pollutants. In the latter case assessing risk means also the study of the parametric sensitivity of chemical reactors and of the possible thermal runaways; the steady-state and transient modelling of the involved chemical processes; the optimization of start-up and shut-down procedures, the development of early warning systems.

Identification, transport and dispersion of chemical pollutants
The research group developed deterministic and stochastic models (Data Based Mechanistic Modeling, Smoothed Particle Models) of advection – dispersion – reaction of VOCs, particulate, PAHs, heavy metals, DNAPLs and NAPLS; they also proposed methodologies for solving inverse problems related to pollutant sources identification (based on Fuzzy Optimization and Neural Networks), techniques for optimal sampling and optimal design of monitoring campaigns and laboratory tests (based on Genetic Algorithms and Principal Component Analysis).

Advanced technologies for characterization and treatment of groundwater pollutants
The research group developed an experimental setup designed to assist in the characterisation of complex solute transport problems in groundwater. Glass beads representing the medium are confined in a 2-D transparent perspex box and a water flow transports a fluorescent dye. Under suitable illumination, the dye emits visible light collected by a CCD camera. The image acquired by this non-invasive optical technique is processed to estimate the 2-dimensional distribution of tracer concentrations by using an appropriate calibration curve that links fluorescent intensity and solute concentration. The experimental apparatus can be used also as a test-facility to simulate pump and treat remediation processes and/or the effects of soil saturation on the pollutant dispersion and entrapment. In this case a pollutant spill is injected on the top of the previously water saturated chamber: infiltration, migration and entrapment of the non-wetting fluid is recorded through the light transmission technique by placing the CCD camera in front of the chamber and illuminating it from the back with a controlled/filtered output diffuse light source. The CCD camera measures the intensity of light transmitted through the chamber as a function of space and time; processing these digital images consent to compute the pollutant saturation field. Samples of liquid are collected from the chamber in order to estimate the pollutant concentration over the time and analyzed by HPLC and FTIR.(“Advanced technologies for DNAPLs source identification, characterization and treatment “ project funded by Italian Ministry of Research and University).



In situ remediation techniques based on nanoscale zero-valent iron for the degradation of chlorinated compounds
Rapid in-situ degradation of chlorinated solvents can be accomplished using Nanoscopic Zero-Valent Iron (NZVI). Several studies have shown that NZVI transport in the subsurface is limited due to rapid aggregation and filtration by the soil. The aim of the study is to test new-synthetized NZVI particles in order to relate the kinetics of trichloroethylene (TCE) degradation in liquid phase to particles load, dimension and transport. In order to analyze the reactivity and transport of NZVI in groundwater. The research group used a glass column filled with glass spheres and developed a 2D model able to simulate transport and reaction of nanoscopic iron in heterogeneous porous media. By means of an optimal sampling procedure in time and space, water samples can be collected and fed to HPLC and/or FTIR. (“Analysis of reactivity and transport of Nanoscopic Zero Valent Iron (NZVI) for in-situ groundwater remediation of clorurated hydrocarbons” project funded by Italian Ministry of Research and University).




3. Waste to energy and renewables

The main research activities regard low impact processes for waste treatment, recycle and energy recover; energy production from syngas, landfill and sewage gas; processes for waste-water and air treatment.

An integrated process for biofuels production and waste recovery: SustBIOref

ECPL, in cooperation with SENEN srls designed an integrated energy system in order to investigate and optimize the synergic use of different wastes and algae coltures. An optimization of the process has been done through a complete experimental campaign on a pilot plant composed by three parts: i) utilization of waste frying oil in a transesterification process producing biodiesel and glycerol; ii) produce microalgae cultures in an airlift photo-bioreactor by using glycerol and by capturing carbon dioxide; use of microalgae oil in transesterification and iii) gasification of algae cell membranes and solid wastes mixed with glycerol in order to increase  the LCV.











3. Labs main equipment

ROOM 1: Gas-Chromatography Thermo Electron TCD and FID detectors; FT-IR Nicolet model 6700; HPLC Shimatzu (Diode Array detector) ; 2 spectrometers UV-VIS; tubular catalytic reactor for biogas purification; Zeiss Axioscop 40 microscope; Zeiss stereoscopic microscope; portable instruments and relative probes for measures of ph, conductivity, redox, dissolved oxygen; ultrasonic bath heating; rotating evaporator; hot plates with magnetic stirrers; ionic exchange resins column; analytical balance.

ROOM2: 2 glass tubular reactors; 2 stainless steel tubular reactors; technical balance; National Instruments acquisition system + control system+ Labview; test-facility based on non-invasive light transmission technique for subsurface transport simulation; dryer /oven; sifter and mesh sieves for granulometric analysis; Thermo Electron low-high pressure mercury porosimeters Pascal 140 – 240.

Students are involved in monitoring campaigns and samples laboratory analysis.

Previous M.Sc. in Environmental Engineering: photos from students’ reports: