Group Receives NSF EAGER Funding to Study Plasma-Treatment of Perfluoroalkyl Substances

The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant to Clarkson University professors for their research on electrical plasma treatment of per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs).

PFASs have recently received considerable attention due to their toxicity, ubiquitous presence and recalcitrance in the environment. Recent studies have detected them in drinking water in New York State and just this month in fast food wrappers, including hamburger and sandwich wrappers, pastry bags, beverage cups and French fry containers.

PFASs are used in a wide range of industrial applications and the manufacture of consumer goods, and may be found in cleaners, textiles, leather, paper, paints, fire-fighting foams and wire insulation. Manufacture and disposal of PFAS-containing formulations and products, and use of aqueous film forming foams at numerous sites has resulted in PFAS contamination of groundwater and drinking water supplies. This issue is particularly problematic due to the lack of effective treatment technologies to remove PFASs from contaminated water.

PFASs are found in the blood of people and animals all over the world. Recent studies have linked PFASs to kidney and testicular cancers, thyroid disease, low birth weight and immunotoxicity in children, among other health issues.

Jean S. Newell Distinguished Professor of Engineering Thomas Holsen, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Selma Mededovic Thagard and Research Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Bernard Crimmins received an Early-concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) for their work in this area.

Holsen, Thagard and Crimmins have developed a novel treatment process based on electrical discharge plasma that is highly effective in degrading PFASs at efficiencies significantly better than alternative treatment technologies. This work was recently described in a manuscript in Environmental Science and Technology, on Jan. 12, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b04215.

The EAGER funding will allow the team to advance the fundamental understanding of the chemical reaction mechanisms by which reactive species produced by the plasma reactor transform perfluoroalkyl compounds in water and identify degradation byproducts.

Learn more about the project at the NSF website: https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1630854 .