A Scalable Solution in the Fight Against PFAS

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has partnered with NBOT Labs to create what is considered the first scalable (and cost-effective) solution in the fight against PFAS and other forever chemicals.

While there are limitations associated with other methods of treating PFAS, this NBOT solution does not rely on any chemical additives and maintains an environmentally friendly approach to treating water systems. The solution utilizes NBOT (nanobubble oxidation technology), a patent-pending process in which oxygen and ozone are injected into nanobubbles, which creates hydroxyl radicals, which are then used in the process of breaking down PFAS.

Through this method, PFAS concentrations were reduced by over 99.999 percent, validated by testing done with NOAA.



PhD student Ziyi “Bruce” Meng tests samples. Credit: University of Rochester/J. Adam Fenster.

University of Rochester Uses Electrocatalysis to Remove PFOS

A team of scientists at the University of Rochester has created a new, cheaper methodology to remove certain forever chemicals from water supplies. The team, led by Assistant Professor Astrid Müller, is using an electrochemical approach to remove a particular type of PFAS called perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

The method is a combination of techniques involving chemical engineering, chemistry, materials science, and ultrafast lasers to remove the forever chemicals from the targeted environments. This unique combination culminates in the creation of nanocatalysts that are used to blast away the chemicals in the water.

While further research is being done to improve the method, Müller has filed for a patent.


Silica scaling in industrial water treatment. Credit: Adam Malin/U.S. Department of Energy.

Yale Research Tackles Silica Scaling

A collaborative research venture between Yale University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has uncovered new information regarding the prevalent issue of silica scaling, a common problem in industrial water applications. Silica scale can build up and encrust equipment, and the few cost-effective methods to deal with silica scaling can contribute to other types of scaling problems.

Researchers at Yale created nitrogen-containing polymers and found significant variations to their efficacy. The research found that polymers with charged amine and uncharged amide groups, water-soluble chemical compounds, showed superior performance in preventing silica scaling compared to monomers sharing similar compounds, which had insignificant results.

Yale’s Mingjiang Zhong explained that even though the research is focused on one method of addressing silica scale, they hope to find further, more universal antiscalant solutions.



MIT Chemists Develop New PFAS Sensor

Chemists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new device for detecting miniscule traces of PFAS. The method aims to detect two of the most common and harmful PFAS compounds, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA). The testing method utilizes the compounds’ unique, acidic qualities to detect their presence via a testing strip comprising three polymers coated in fluorocarbons on nitrocellulose paper. The fluorocarbons draw protons from the PFAS into the polyaniline and turn it into a conductor, reducing the electrical resistance of the material. This change in resistance, which can be measured precisely using electrodes and sent to an external device such as a smartphone, gives a quantitative measurement of how much PFAS is present. This sensor can detect PFAS levels as low as 200 parts per trillion (ppt) in PFBA and 400 ppt for PFOA.

Researchers from MIT are now working on a home-scale system that consumers could use to increase the sensitivity of the test by nearly a hundredfold.


A Low-Cost Electrode Method to Detect Lead

New electrochemical testing can potentially lower the cost of detecting harmful heavy metals in water. Electrochemical testing has been shown to be a more efficient, real-time solution for testing water sources for contamination, but research is continuing to widen its efficacy and cost.

In research detailed in the Chinese Journal of Analytical Chemistry, polyaniline was tested to determine its efficacy in enhancing the electrical conductivity of a layered double hydroxide, an ultrathin nanocomposite material. This material was combined with a carbon paste electrode, and testing showed that the modified electrode operated with a higher level of lead detection at a reduced cost.

Compared to atomic absorption, another leading method of pollutant analysis, the tests accounted for only 0.1 percent of the total cost of the other leading method of testing. The reduced cost and portability of the electrode established it as a potential solution for real-time analysis of water pollution.



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