PFAS are a group of chemicals made up of more than 4,000 compounds that have their own characteristics, from waterproof clothing and nonstick frying pans to food packaging and firefighting foam. Widely used since the 1940s, studies have linked the use of these chemicals to a wide range of health conditions, including cancer and impaired immune system function.
In the ongoing effort to eliminate chemicals from the environment, we have seen some promising progress, including a 2020 study showing that a new type of powder could be used as a catalyst to destroy some of the most stubborn PFASs form. Earlier this year, an interesting, landmark study found that blood levels of toxic PFAS chemicals can be reduced by 30 percent by donating blood regularly.
The latest discovery in this area comes from scientists at the University of California, Riverside, who began in 2017 trying to break down PFAS chemicals through a photochemical reaction. Adding these substances to water treatment reactors containing sulfurous acid and exposing them to UV light has been shown to effectively break down them. However, the chemical reaction unfolds very slowly, so the process uses a lot of energy and fails to break down all the strong carbon-fluorine bonds that underlie the long-term existence of PFAS chemicals.
In an attempt to improve the method, scientists have been tweaking the process and have had some success in the last year, finding that oxidative treatments before and after these baths caused the carbon-fluorine bonds in the main PFAS contaminant to be destroyed. 100% destruction. The team has now added a special ingredient to it to speed up development.
The addition of iodide to UV and sulfite treatment brings significant performance advantages, it can easily break down common forms of PFAS, and additionally can concentrate PFAS in brine solutions, a promising candidate for groundwater purification efforts sign. The formula was also shown to effectively break down a particularly problematic four-carbon PFAS molecule, perfluorobutane sulfonate, which was completely removed from solution within 24 hours.
“Iodide is really doing some substantial work,” said Jinyong Liu, an assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering and corresponding author of the paper. “Not only does it speed up the reaction, but it also allows the processing of PFAS at 10-fold higher concentrations, or even a Some very intractable structures.”
Overall, the team’s new method was found to destroy 90 percent of the fluorine carbon atoms in PFAS, according to the research team, faster than pure UV and sulfite treatments; twice — in several Complete within hours. Scientists are now working with partners to pilot test the technology.