Module code: CHE1034

Module Overview

An introduction to the numerous interlinked chemical processes that take place within the Earth’s environment, and the impact they may have for life on Earth.

Module provider


Module Leader

VARCOE John (Chemistry)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 4

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 111

Lecture Hours: 33

Tutorial Hours: 6

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

  • Introduction to the environment and environmental cycles. Summary of role of major elements in living matter. Political relevance of environmental issues;

  • Water: Properties and structures of water and ice; aqueous solutions; ionic product of water, acidity and alkalinity: pH, pOH. Buffers and buffered solutions. Speciation. The water cycle. Purification of waste water: the Camelford incident.

  • Carbon: The carbon cycle. Photosynthesis and formation of carbon compounds. Organic pollutants in the environment;

  • Oxygen: The oxygen cycle. Nature and makeup of the atmosphere; atmospheric gas phases reactions;

  • Nitrogen: The nitrogen cycle. Nitrogen fixation, nitrification denitrification and ammonification. Fertilizers, nitrates in water supply;

  • Chemistry of polluted atmospheres: ozone, NOx, SOx, photochemical smog, greenhouse effect and global warming;

  • Sulphur: The sulphur cycle. Remediation;

  • Phosphorus: The phosphorus cycle. Eutrophication;

  • Heavy metals such as aluminium, mercury, lead, cadmium and iron within the environment: Cycles, biotransformation, bioaccumulation and speciation;

  • Radiation and radionuclides in the environment;

  • Energy: Brief review of methods of energy generation; renewable and non-renewable resources. Nuclear power – the solution to our energy problems?

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Examination EXAM - 2.0 HOURS 70
Coursework COURSEWORK 30

Alternative Assessment

No alternative to Examination and extended essay

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate successful achievement of the learning outcomes.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • 2.0 hour examination 70% (addresses LOs 1-4)

  • Coursework (2000-2500) 30% (addresses all LOs, particularly 3 and 5)


Formative assessment

Students are required to produce a detailed plan for the extended essay; tutorial sessions with problems and/or discussion topics ensure that students engage with the module and are able to measure their own progress with it.



Detailed feedback is provided on the essay plan and on the extended essay – written on each printed piece of work and using the feedback form. Similar feedback given on the poster and ‘newspaper’ front page generally and individually.

Module aims

  • To provide an introduction to some of the fundamental concepts and principles of environmental chemistry
  • To provide an introduction to the type of chemical processes occurring naturally and as a result of anthropogenic activities within the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere
  • To provide an understanding and rationalisation of some of the key environmental problems currently confronting society, and a consideration of possible of the solutions

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Understand some of the fundamental principles of environmental chemistry K
002 Understand the chemistry of the natural environment, and particularly how processes that operate within the atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere and hydrosphere are all interlinked K
003 Appreciate the nature of environmental problems facing society as a result of anthropogenic activities, and consider solutions KC
004 Identify the principle problems with current energy generation technologies, and to compare and contrast potential renewable and nuclear solutions to these problems KC
005 Review articles and reports on environmental issues in the popular press and magazines for scientific factual accuracy KCT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

  • allow students to understand the key processes operating within the environment, relate them to their current understanding of chemistry, and to consider how environmental problems may be foreseen and avoided.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • lectures, seminars, tutorials, consideration of case studies, research for extended essay. There are 33 hours of lectures and 6 hours of tutorials/seminars, arranged flexibly to reflect class cohort and topics of discussion.



Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: CHE1034

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Chemistry MChem 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Chemistry BSc (Hons) 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2020/1 academic year.