Hydrogel diagram. Credit: Soumi Dutta

New PFAS Sensor Could Be Used for Both Housing and Industrial Water

Researchers at MIT have partnered to create an at-home sensor for detecting the presence of two of the most harmful forms of PFAS.

Research led by Timothy Swager and Soyhun Park shows the sensor can detect the presence of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA) in amounts as little as 200 parts per trillion (ppt). The sensor uses the same techniques as pregnancy and COVID-19 tests: It contains a polymer known as polyaniline that switches between conducting and semiconducting states when protons are added.

While the 200 ppt sensing threshold is more than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s current PFOA safe drinking-water level of 0.004 ppt, the researchers are confident their continued work will produce higher levels of accuracy as they scale their techniques into membrane technology that could even service industrial PFAS testing.


New Hydrogel Could Remove Microplastics from Water

A new hydrogel has successfully shown its ability to remove microplastics from drinking water. Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science have effectively created a sustainable material that can capture microplastic particles and safely remove them from water to be degraded using ultraviolet (UV) light irradiation.

This hydrogel is built on an intertwined polymer network comprising three layers: chitosan, polyvinyl alcohol, and polyaniline. Due to the layers of polymer, the hydrogel is not at risk of becoming clogged with microscopic particles, unlike other hydrogel solutions. The layers are combined with nanoclusters of copper substitute polyoxometalate that allow the UV light degradation to occur.



Coastal Infrastructure at Risk of Corrosion from Groundwater

A recent study from the University of Hawaii at Manoa outlined the correlation between salty, rising groundwater and coastal infrastructure corrosion and system failures. The team attributed this connection to the rising sea level, which is causing a rise in coastal groundwater, resulting in it becoming salty and corrosive. This, in turn, is linked to the increase in system failures for complex, underground infrastructure, impacting sewer lines, roadways, and even building foundations.

University earth scientists scoured data from around the world and identified over 1,500 low-lying coastal cities and towns where corrosion is likely affecting the infrastructure, impacting an approximately 1.42 billion people globally.


Forever chemical hot spots. Credit: Diana Ackerman Grunfeld et al.

Forever Chemical Hot Spots Found Worldwide

Contamination by forever chemicals is a global concern, and a team of scientists from the University of New South Wales in Australia has catalogued data regarding levels of contamination that have determined the world’s major forever chemical hot spots.

Over 45,000 surface and groundwater samples were collected from around the world to measure the global extent that PFAS have permeated the environment due to each region’s level of use of these forever chemicals. The hot spots included areas in Australia, China, the United States, and parts of Europe, but the study noted that an abundance of data obtained from these regions meant they were the most heavily tested regions for PFAS.



Researcher Anja Mueller (center) alongside students.

CMU Developing New Filtration Polymer

Researchers at Central Michigan University (CMU) are pioneering advanced water-filtration technology using a groundbreaking polymer. Developed by CMU’s chemistry and engineering faculty members Brad Fahlman, Itzel Marquez, and Anja Mueller, the polymer shows promise in addressing persistent water-quality challenges.

The process involves imprinting contaminants on the polymer, leaving tailored indentations for effective removal. The team is exploring two filtration methods optimized by Mueller and Marquez: a membrane and a filter that is similar to a home pitcher. These innovative solutions aim to create portable, scalable systems capable of removing various contaminants, including PFAS.



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