Magnetic method to clean PFAS-contaminated water

Wednesday, 01 February, 2023

Researchers from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), based at The University of Queensland, say they have pioneered a simple, fast and effective technique to remove per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals from water.

PFAS are synthetic compounds used in industry and consumer products since the 1950s, but they persist in the environment, potentially leading to human health problems. As noted by AIBN polymer chemist Dr Cheng Zhang, “Removing PFAS chemicals from contaminated waters is urgently needed to safeguard public and environmental health — but existing methods require machinery like pumps, take a lot of time and need their own power source.”

Zhang and PhD candidate Xiao Tan teamed up to develop their own PFAS removal technique that involves treating contaminated water with a new solution, called a magnetic fluorinated polymer sorbent. As explained by Zhang, “This solution that we developed coats the PFAS particles and then we can use a magnet to attract, isolate and remove them.”

Zhang and Tan used their method to clear 95% of PFAS from a small amount of contaminated water in under a minute, with their results published in the journal Angewandte Chemie. Zhang said the technique is faster, cheaper and cleaner than existing methods, as it does not require electricity — making it suitable for remote and off-grid communities — and can be reused up to 10 times.

“Our team will now scale up the testing and we hope to have a commercially available product ready in the next three years,” he said.

Image caption: PhD candidate Xiao Tan holds a magnet attracting PFAS particles to the side of a vial of contaminated water, supervised by Dr Cheng Zhang.

Originally published here.

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