The research activity concerns the development of new analytical methods for elemental, isotopic and speciation analysis of trace elements and their application to environmental, biological and food samples. In particular, the research comprises fundamental and applicative issues related to the spectrochemical analysis of toxic and essential elements, the determination of their speciation and the precise measurement of lead and strontium isotopic ratios, as provenance tracers. The developed methods are mainly applied in the context of environmental studies in the polar regions, with the purpose of investigating the occurrence, potential sources and bioavailability of trace elements, in relation to natural processes and global climate changes. The research is carried out in the frame of national and European projects and involves renowned research groups.
New challenges… more research
In our fast-changing world, scientists are asked to provide the knowledge that is necessary to face worldwide problems, such as climate-related environmental changes, food security and traceability, emerging health threats, energy supply, and so on. In the effort of improving our knowledge of complex systems and to correctly drive the decisions of policy-makers, the obtaining of reliable, objective and reproducible scientific data is of primary importance. As the science of chemical measurements, the analytical chemistry plays a full role in the advancement of the scientific knowledge, offering instruments and methods to continuously give new answers to emerging questions. The activity of the research group is part of this mission, with specific focus on trace elements, their determination by atomic spectrometry and the investigation of their role in the environment.
This activity is briefly illustrated below via few, representative research topics we recently focus on. For a complete review of our studies, you are invited to check our List of publications.
Arsenic is not so bad!
In common parlance, “arsenic” is synonymous with “poison” but, scientifically, this is not correct! In fact, arsenic may occur in several chemical compounds that show wide-ranging levels of toxicity, from highly-toxic to innocuous. Therefore, the identification and quantification of the chemical species of arsenic - a process called speciation analysis - is of great importance for the correct assessment of the quality/safety of a specific environment or food. Besides, arsenic speciation analysis can provide information on the natural transformation/accumulation of this trace element through the food chain and among various environmental compartments.In this context, our research has been aimed at developing new analytical methods for arsenic speciation analysis of environmental and food samples, and at investigating the natural occurrence, transformation and temporal trend of arsenic compounds in Antarctic biota.
The research is performed in co-operation with Prof. Kevin Francesconi (University of Graz). For a review on the topic click here.
Sample introduction: the Achilles' heel of atomic spectroscopy?
In atomic spectrometry, it was immediately recognized that the sample introduction system largely determines the quality of the analysis, in terms of accuracy and sensitivity. Therefore, a lot of fundamental and technological research has been carried out in order to develop new systems, able to efficiently introduce any kind of sample into the atomization source, with limited matrix effects.
In co-operation with Prof. Jean-Michel Mermet and Prof. José Luís Todolí, we developed an innovative system, called heated torch-integrated sample introduction system (hTISIS), which proved to provide superior performances for the elemental and isotopic analysis of micro-samples by plasma-source atomic spectrometry. Applications of hTISIS comprised environmental samples (seawater, marine sediments, organisms, Antarctic snow), foods (vegetables, wine), biological tissues (human blood, bone tissue, cerebrospinal fluid) and organics (petroleum products and biofuels).
From trace to tracer
In many environmental studies, the determination of trace elements and their isotopic composition can provide valuable information on the geographical sources of both natural and anthropogenic inputs, the relative contributions of these sources over time and the corresponding transport routes. Recently, we developed new analytical methods for the precise measurement of lead and strontium isotopic ratios in challenging environmental matrices, using single- and multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. The methods were validated and extensively applied to the isotopic analysis of atmospheric particulate and surface snow collected in the Arctic and Antarctica, in the context of PRA (Italian Program of Research in the Arctic) and PNRA (Italian National Program of Research in Antarctica) projects.
The research is performed in co-operation with Prof. Frank Vanhaecke (University of Ghent). For a review on the topic click here
Iron is the key
Iron is an essential trace element involved in many biological processes, including photosynthesis and respiration. In vast areas of the Earth, it can limit the marine primary productivity, thereby controlling the biological carbon pump and the sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere. Consequently, understanding the factors that control the iron availability in seawater and how they might evolve under a global warming scenario, becomes crucial to unravel how the climate system might develop in the next decades. With maximum extension of 18 million km2, sea ice constitutes the dominant and most widespread source of iron in polar waters during seasonal melting and therefore it may play a key role in drawing down atmospheric CO2 levels through the stimulation of primary production. In this context, our research has been aimed at investigating the factors that control the iron biogeochemistry in Antarctic coastal waters and in sea ice, through the application of suitable analytical protocols able to determine the organic speciation parameters.
The research is in co-operation with Dr. Delphine Lannuzel (University of Tasmania) and Prof. Paola Rivaro of the Chemical Oceanography group.
Starting from the fundamentals
In instrumental analytical chemistry, a thorough knowledge of the processes involved in the generation of the analytical signal is complex, but necessary to face practical analytical problems on a rational base. Therefore, despite the research in the atomic spectrometry field is becoming more and more application-oriented, fundamentals studies continues to be of great value. So, our group is also interested in fundamental studies concerning the atomic spectrometry techniques, including sample introduction processes, atomization and excitation mechanisms and matrix interferences.
Keep calm and think multivariate!
Most of the studies mentioned above makes use of chemometrics, the chemical discipline that uses mathematical and statistical methods to design or select optimal procedures and experiments, and to extract maximum chemical information from data. The key aspect of chemometrics is the multivariate approach, encompassing the simultaneous observation and analysis of more than one variable. Examples of chemometric studies by our research group are the multivariate investigation of matrix interferences, the use of Principal Component Analysis for the selection of optimal internal standards, the optimization of the operating conditions following the experimental design and empirical modelling approach, the analysis of environmental dataset by multivariate techniques.
The research is in co-operation with the research group of Analytical Chemistry and Chemometrics of the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Genoa. For a tutorial review on the topic click here
- S. Bertinetti, E. Bolea-Fernandez, M. Malandrino, B. Moroni, D. Cappelletti, M. Grotti, F.Vanhaecke, Strontium isotopic analysis of environmental microsamples by inductively coupled plasma - tandem mass spectrometry. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry 37 (2022) 103-113. Link
- L. Caiazzo, S. Becagli, S. Bertinetti , M. Grotti, S. Nava, M. Severi, R. Traversi, High Resolution Chemical Stratigraphies of Atmospheric Depositions from a 4 m Depth Snow Pit at Dome C (East Antarctica). Atmosphere 12 (2021) 909. Link
- S. Bertinetti, F. Ardini, L. Caiazzo, M. Grotti, Determination of major elements in Antarctic snow by inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry using a total-consumption sample introduction system. Spectrochimica Acta Part B 181 (2021) 106231. Link
- A. Bazzano, S. Bertinetti, F. Ardini, D. Cappelletti, M. Grotti, Potential Source Areas for Atmospheric Lead Reaching Ny-Ålesund from 2010 to 2018. Atmosphere 12 (2021) 388. Link
- B. Benedetti, V. Caponigro, F. Ardini. Experimental Design Step by Step: A Practical Guide for Beginners. Critical Reviews in Analytical Chemistry 2020. Link
- C. Cerutti, R. Sánchez, C. Sánchez, F. Ardini, M. Grotti, J.L. Todolí. Prospect on rare earth elements and metals fingerprint for the geographical discrimination of commercial Spanish wines. Molecules 25 (2020) 5602. Link
- E. Conca, M. Malandrino, A. Giacomino, E. Costa, F. Ardini, P. Inaudi, O. Abollino. Optimization of a sequential extraction procedure for trace elements in Arctic PM10. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 412 (2020) 7429-7440. Link
- M. Grotti, J.L. Todolì. Nitric acid effect in inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry: new insights on possible causes and correction. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry 35 (2020) 1959-1968. Link
- C. Petroselli, B. Moroni, S. Crocchianti, R. Selvaggi, F. Soggia, M.Grotti, F. d'Acapito, D. Cappelletti. Iron speciation in different Saharan dust advections and effect of the procedural blank on the results from X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy and selective leaching experiments. Atmosphere 11 (2020) 735. Link
- S. Bertinetti, F. Ardini, M.A. Vecchio, L. Caiazzo, M. Grotti. Isotopic analysis of snow from Dome C indicates changes in the source of atmospheric lead over the last fifty years in East Antarctica. Chemosphere 255 (2020) 126858. Link
- F. Ardini, G. Dan, M. Grotti. Arsenic speciation analysis of environmental samples. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry 35 (2020) 215-237 Link
- F. Ardini, A. Bazzano, M. Grotti. Lead isotopic ratios in the Arctic environment. Environmental Chemistry 17 (2020) 213-239 Link
- C. Cerutti, C. Sánchez, R. Sánchez, F. Ardini, M. Grotti, J.L. Todolí. Determination of trace elements in undiluted wine samples using an automatized total sample consumption system coupled to ICP-MS. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry 34 (2019) 674-682. Link
- E. Conca, O. Abollino, A. Giacomino, S. Buoso, R. Traversi, S. Becagli, M. Grotti, M. Malandrino. Characterization and temporal evolution of the elemental composition of PM10 collected at Ny-Ålesund (Norwegian Arctic). Atmospheric Environment 203 (2019) 153-165. Link
- C. Petroselli, B. Moroni, S. Crocchianti, R. Selvaggi, F. Soggia, M. Grotti, F. D'Acapito, D. Cappelletti. Iron speciation of natural and anthropogenic particulate matter by spectroscopic and chemical methods. Atmosphere 10 (2019) 8. Link
- F. Ardini, A. Bazzano, M. Grotti. Lead isotopic analysis of Antarctic snow by quadrupole ICP-MS using a total-consumption sample introduction system. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry 33 (2018) 2124-2132. Link
- L. Yang, K. Nadeau, J. Meija, P. Grinberg, E. Pagliano, F. Ardini, M. Grotti, C. Schlosser, P. Streu, E.P. Achterberg, Y. Sohrin, T. Minami, L. Zheng, J. Wu, G. Chen, M.J. Ellwood, C. Turetta, A. Aguilar-Islas, R. Rember, G. Sarthou, M. Tonnard, H. Planquette, T. Matoušek, S. Crum, Z. Mester. Inter-laboratory study for the certification of trace elements in seawater certified reference materials NASS-7 and CASS-6. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 410 (2018) 4469-4479. Link
- C. Genovese, M. Grotti, J. Pittaluga, F. Ardini, J. Janssens, K. Wuttig, S. Moreau, D. Lannuzel. Influence of organic complexation on dissolved iron distribution in East Antarctic pack ice (SIPEX-2). Marine Chemistry 203 (2018) 28-37. Link
- M. Grotti, F. Soggia, F. Ardini, A. Bazzano, B. Moroni, R. Vivani, D. Cappelletti, C. Misic. Trace elements in surface sediments from Kongsfjorden: occurrence, sources and bioavailability. International Journal of Environmental Analytical Chemistry, 97 (2017) 401-418. Link
- A. Bazzano, K. Latruwe, M. Grotti, F. Vanhaecke. Determination of the isotopic composition of sub-ng amounts of Sr in Antarctic snow by multi-collector ICP-mass spectrometry. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry, 32 (2017) 1004-1008. Link
- A. Bazzano, F. Ardini, A. Terol, P. Rivaro, F. Soggia, M. Grotti. Effects of the Atlantic water and glacial run-off on the spatial distribution of particulate trace elements in the Kongsfjorden. Marine Chemistry 191 (2017)16–23. Link
- M. Grotti, S. Pizzini, M.L. Abelmoschi, G. Cozzi, R. Piazza, F. Soggia. Retrospective biomonitoring of chemical contamination in the marine coastal environment of Terra Nova Bay (Ross Sea, Antarctica) by environmental specimen banking. Chemosphere 165 (2016) 418-426. Link
For a complete list of publications click here
Top cited articles
- M. Grotti, M.L. Abelmoschi, F.Soggia, P.Rivaro, E.Magi, R.Frache. Temporal distribution of trace metals in Antarctic coastal waters. Marine Chemistry, 76 (2001) 189-209. Link
- M. Grotti, F.Soggia, C.Ianni, R.Frache. Trace metals distributions in coastal sea ice of Terra Nova Bay, Ross Sea, Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 17 (2005) 289-300. Link
- M. Grotti, C. Lagomarsino, R. Frache. Multivariate study in chemical vapor generation for simultaneous determination of arsenic, antimony, bismuth, germanium, tin, selenium, tellurium and mercury by inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry, 20 (2005) 1365-1373. Link
- M. Grotti, E. Magi, R. Leardi. Selection of internal standards in inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry by principal component analysis. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry, 18 (2003) 274-281. Link
- M. Grotti, F. Soggia, F. Ardini, R. Frache. Determination of sub-nanomolar levels of iron in sea-water using reaction cell inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry after Mg(OH)2 coprecipitation. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry, 24 (2009) 522-527. Link
Thesis title: Study of the biogeochemical cycles of trace elements in Antarctica by isotopic analysis
Master Student in co-tutoring with Dr. Justine Vernet (Centre national de la recherche scientifique, France) and Prof. Paolo Piccardo of the research group of Metallurgy of the DCCI
Thesis title: Isotopic and metallographic analysis of bronze objects from French sites
Master Student in co-tutoring with Dr. Luca Mazzi, Laboratorio Chimico Cosulich, Genova
Thesis title: Determination of metals in vegetable oil samples using ICP-OES: new matrix preparation procedure for optimal instrumental analysis
Thesis title: Strontium isotopic analysis of Antarctic snow samples
Thesis title: Isotopic analysis of atmospheric lead reaching the polar regions
Master Student in co-tutoring with Dr. Fabio Ghioni, ARPAL Genova
Thesis title: Elemental analysis of atmospheric particulate by ICP-MS/MS and XRF
Thesis title: Elemental and isotopic analysis of snow collected from an Antarctic coastal area
Former students (last five years)
- Stefano BERTINETTI, Isotopic analysis of atmospheric particulate from polar regions. PhD in Chemical Sciences and Technologies.
- Anahi Federica GIUSSANI, Arsenic speciation analysis of Arctic fish species by HPLC-ICPMS. Master Degree in Chemical Sciences (25 March 2022).
- Martina GANDALINI, Lead isotopic analysis of PM10 collected from the polar regions. Master Degree in Chemical Sciences (25 March 2022).
- Laura ROMANI, Development of an analytical method to quantify trace metals in seawater using ICP-MS/MS with a total consumption sample introduction system, previous pre-concentration, in co-tutoring with Prof. José Luis Todolí (University of Alicante, Spain). Master Degree in Chemical Sciences (25 March 2022).
- Beatrice COSSU, Elemental analysis of Antarctic seawater. Bachelor Degree in Chemistry and Chemical Technologies (18 February 2022).
- Federico MOGGIA, Elemental and speciation analysis of Arctic fish species. Master Degree in Chemical Sciences (11 June 2021).
- Giulia TASSISTRO, Determination of trace elements in seawater by inductively coupled plasma atomic emission and mass spectrometry using an innovative sample introduction system, in co-tutoring with Prof. José Luis Todolí (University of Alicante, Spain). Master Degree in Chemical Sciences (30 April 2021).
- Danilo GRATTAROLA, Analysis of nanoparticles in environmental samples by ICP-MS, in co-tutoring with Dr. Fabio Ghioni, ARPAL Genova. Master Degree in Chemical Sciences (25 March 2021).
- Francesca CIRELLI, Elemental analysis of Antarctic marine and atmospheric matrices by ICP-MS. Master Degree in Chemical Sciences (25 March 2021).
- Elisa PARODI, Analysis of Antarctic snow by ICP-OES using an high efficiency sample introduction system. Master Degree in Chemical Sciences (25 March 2021).
- Laura MAGNASCO, Major and trace elements in polar snow samples: statistical data analysis. Bachelor Degree in Chemistry and Chemical Technologies (30 October 2020).
- Ines TASSANO, Metal nanoparticle analysis in environmental matrices by SP-ICP-MS, in co-tutoring with Dr. Fabio Ghioni, ARPAL Genova. Master Degree in Chemical Sciences (27 March 2020).
- Alessia VECCHIO, Isotopic analysis of Antarctic environmental matrices by ICP-MS. Master Degree in Chemical Sciences (27 March 2020).
- Antonello MOLINARI, Analysis of environmental matrices by ICP-OES. Bachelor Degree in Chemistry and Chemical Technologies (26 March 2020).
- Dalia GOBBATO, Elemental and isotopic analysis of Arctic PM10 samples. Bachelor Degree in Chemistry and Chemical Technologies (14 February 2020).
- Greta DAN, Speciation analysis of arsenic, chromium and mercury in specimens of the Antarctic scallop Adamussium Colbecki collected from 1995 to 2009, in co-tutoring with Prof. Kevin Francesconi (University of Graz, Austria). Master Student in Chemical Sciences.
- Clelia SERENI, Copper determination in environmental and biological matrices, in co-tutoring with Prof. Martin Resano (University of Zaragoza, Spain). Master Degree in Chemical Sciences (29 March 2019).
- Claudia CERUTTI, Food analysis by plasma source atomic spectrometry using an innovative sample introduction system, in co-tutoring with Prof. José Luis Todolí (University of Alicante, Spain). Master Degree in Chemical Science (29 March 2019).
- Beatrice ZOPPI, Chemical analysis of atmospheric particulate samples collected from polar regions. Bachelor Degree in Chemistry and Chemical Technologies (15 February 2019).
- Matilda CICALA, Development of analytical methods for the determination of lead and strontium isotopic ratios and their application in environmental studies. Master Degree in Chemical Sciences (23 March 2018).
- Alessia VECCHIO, Analysis of atmospheric particulate collected from the Arctic. Bachelor Degree in Chemistry and Chemical Technologies (16 February 2018).
- Martin Resano (University of Zaragoza), Copper speciation analyis of biological samples by ICP-MS.
- Delphine Lannuzel (University of Tasmania), Iron biogeochemistry in sea ice.
- Frank Vanhaecke (University of Ghent), Isotopic analysis of strontium and lead in Antarctic snow.
- Jan Koschorreck (German Federal Environmental Agency), Environmental specimen banking.
- Kevin Francesconi (University of Graz), Arsenic speciation in Antarctic organisms.
- Josè Luis Todolì (University of Alicante), Plasma source atomic spectrometry: fundamentals and applications.
- Jean-Michel Mermet (Spectroscopy Forever), Plasma source atomic spectrometry: fundamentals and applications.
- Dmitri Katskov (Technikon Pretoria), Mechanisms of electrothermal atomization.
- In the framework of PNRA (Italian National Program for Antarctic Research) and PRA (Italian Research Program of Research in the Arctic) projects, the group has established strong connections with research units of the following institutions: Italian National Research Council, National Institute for Nuclear Physics, and Univerities of Florence, Perugia, Pisa, Turin and Venice.
- In the context of BCAA (Antarctic Environmental Specimen Bank), we are linked to the International Environmental Specimen Bank Group and to the Museo Nazionale dell’Antartide.
- In the framework of the EU COST Action 16224, we are involved in the scientific network aimed at establishing the European Raptor Biomonitoring Facility.
The group directly manages the following analytical facilities:
- Inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometers (Varian Vista PRO, Thermo iCAP 6000).
- Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometers (Perkin-Elmer DRC II, Perkin-Elmer NexIon 2000).
- Atomic absorption spectrometers (Varian SpectrAA 400 equipped with Hg cold vapour generation and pre-concentration system; Varian AA240 equipped with flame, graphite furnace and hydride generation systems).
- Various sample introduction systems (pneumatic nebulizers, Peltier-cooled system PC3, ultrasonic nebulizer, hydride generation/cold vapour system, high-efficiency total introduction system hTISIS, HPLC for speciation studies).
- Clean laboratories for sample preparation, equipped with microwave-assisted acid digestion systems (CEM MARS-5, CEM DS-2000), laminar flow benches and various sample preparation facilities for ultratrace analysis (filtration and pre-concentration apparatuses, ice-core sub-sampler, ultrasonic bath, freeze-drier, analytical balances, etc.).
- Storage facilities at BCAA.
How to join us
- If you are a Master student at the University of Genoa: there are open positions for your thesis in our group. Just contact us.
- If you are a Master student of an European University, you can join us through the Erasmus+ Programme either under the "study" or "traineeship" type of mobility, and perform part of the thesis in our group. If you are interested, please contact us at least 6 months before the beginning of the stage period.
- If you are a prospective PhD student, please note that you must apply in May-June for a Doctorate course starting on November 1st. More information can be found here.
- If you wish to join us for a post-lauream traineeship or for a post-doc position, you are very welcome, but you have to find an external sponsorship.
Marco Grotti was born in Genoa in 1968. He graduated in 1992, received his PhD in Chemistry in 1996 and he is currently Professor of Analytical Chemistry at the University of Genoa. His research interests comprise fundamental studies in atomic spectrometry, development of new analytical methods for elemental, isotopic and speciation analysis of environmental matrices and their application to the study of polar ecosystems. He collaborates with prestigious research groups in the field and he has been involved in >20 research projects, funded by the European Union, the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research and the National Research Council. In the framework of PNRA (Italian National Program for Antarctic Research) and PRA (Italian Research Program in the Arctic) projects, he participated on eight expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica, he is responsible of research units and supervisor of the scientific projects related to the Antarctic Environmental Specimen Bank. He is member of CONISMA (National Association for Marine Sciences). He acted as project referee for various foreign institutions and he is regular referee for the main analytical and environmental chemistry journals. Author of ~110 articles on ISI journals (h-index:25; citations: ~1800), 2 textbooks, and >100 Congress presentations.
Francisco Ardini was born in Santa Rosa de Calamuchita (Argentina) in 1983. He graduated in Chemical Sciences in 2008 and earned his PhD degree in Chemical Sciences and Technologies in 2012 at the University of Genoa. In 2011, in the framework of his doctorate, he carried out a period of three months of research activity at the University of Alicante (Spain). Currently, he is a tenure-track assistant professor at the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry of the University of Genoa. His research is focussed on the study of major elements, trace elements and organometallic compounds in different environmental matrices, mainly from polar areas (seawater, snow, sea ice, brine, particulate matter, sediments and organisms), and the development of new analytical methods (mainly based on ICP spectrometry) for the determination of these parameters. He took part in several projects of research, including PRIN ('Progetti di Ricerca di Interesse Nazionale', i.e. Research Projects of National Interest) and PNRA ('Progetto Nazionale di Ricerche in Antartide', i.e. National Project of Research in Antarctica), in which framework he took part in the XXXI and XXXII Italian expeditions in Antarctica; moreover, he is involved in polar environmental studies carried out in Ny-Ålesund (Svalbard, Norway). He has authored 26 publications in international journals and 32 communications at national and international congresses, and he conducts referal activity for several international journals of the field.
Francesco Soggia was born in Cagliari (Italy) in 1956. He obtained his high-school diploma in chemistry and has carried out research activities at the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry of Genoa University, as EP (High Professionality) technician. His scientific interests concern the marine environment, mainly the development of analytical procedures for trace element determination in real matrices. He has been involved in the National Program of Research in Antarctica (PNRA) since 1988, participating on six expeditions and as responsible of research units. Since 1998, he is also responsible for the collections of samples of BCAA (Antarctic Environmental Specimen Bank). He is member of CONISMA (National Association for Marine Sciences). He published about 50 articles on ISI journals, allowing the development of standard protocols for sample collection and storage in view of future investigations and proving the suitability of BCAA to support studies on biogeochemical cycles of the elements and to select biomonitors for the Antarctic coastal ecosystem.