Australia-based scientists have devised an exciting new method for eliminating dangerous “forever chemicals” from water. When a solution is added to contaminated water, it covers the contaminants and renders them magnetic, allowing them to be easily attracted and isolated.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of compounds that have been widely used since the 1950s due to their ability to repel water and oil. However, PFAS compounds have lately been linked to a number of concerning health issues, including an increased risk of diabetes and liver cancer.
To make matters worse, a recent study discovered that PFAS levels in rainfall practically everywhere on Earth surpass the EPA’s recommendations. These stable molecules are extremely difficult to degrade, giving them the moniker “forever chemicals.”
A magnetizing method
Researchers at the University of Queensland have found a method for removing PFAS pollutants from water. The researchers created a solution termed a magnetic fluorinated polymer sorbent, which covers the PFAS molecules when added to contaminated water. This makes them magnetic, thus using a magnet to attract the pollutants and separate them from the water is a pretty straightforward process.
In experiments with small samples of PFAS-contaminated water, the scientists discovered that the process could remove over 95 percent of most PFAS molecules within 30 seconds, including over 99 percent of GenX – a particularly hazardous compound.
Many groups have looked for ways to break down PFAS, mainly using catalysts activated by UV light or heat. Some have used hydrogen or supercritical water. However, magnets might just provide a better path.
What makes this solution better?
The new study’s researchers claim that their magnetic solution offers a few advantages over conventional PFAS removal procedures. The solution itself may be reused up to ten times, it is considerably faster than others, and it does not require any additional energy to initiate the reaction.
“Our method shows that it is possible to remove more of these chemicals in a way that is faster, cheaper, cleaner, and very simple,” stated study co-author Dr. Cheng Zhang. “Because our process does not need electricity, it can be used in remote and off-grid communities. Our team will now scale up the testing and we hope to have a commercially available product ready in the next three years.”
Source study: Angewandte Chemie— Efficient removal of perfluorinated chemicals from contaminated water using magnetic fluorinated polymer sorbents