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Removing PFAS from wastewater

By Paul Grad |

A new low-cost, safe and environmentally friendly method for removing polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) from water has been developed by researchers from Flinders University (Adelaide, Australia; www.flinders.edu.au).

PFAS are commonly used in non-stick and protective coatings, lubricants and aviation fire-fighting foams, and have also been seen as a health hazard. The researchers at Flinders University have developed an absorbent polymer, made from waste cooking oil and sulfur combined with powdered activated carbon. The polymer adheres to carbon in a way that prevents caking during water filtration. It works faster than the commonly used granular activated carbon and it lowers the amount of dust generated by handling powdered activated carbon, lowering respiratory health risks faced by clean-up workers.

During the testing phase, the research team was able to observe the self-assembly of hemi-micelles on the surface of the polymer. The team demonstrated the effectiveness of the polymer-carbon blend by purifying a sample of surface water obtained near a Royal Australian Air Force airbase. The new filter material reduced the PFAS content of this water from 150 parts per trillion (ppt) to less than 23 ppt — well below the 70 ppt guidance value for PFAS limits in drinking water of the Australian Government Dept. of Health.

One of the researchers associated with the development of the new polymer, Justin Chalker, says: “The next stage for us is to test this sorbent on a commercial scale and demonstrate its ability to purify thousands of liters of water. We are also investigating methods for recycling the sorbent and destroying the PFAS.”

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