MAR 23, 2020 7:05 AM PDT

Is it possible to degrade PFASs?

Have you ever heard of PFASs? Also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, these synthetic chemicals built of carbon and fluorine atoms have the most unbreakable bonds in organic chemistry. That’s why PFASs are called forever chemicals and are used in everything from cleaning products, polishes and waxes, food packaging, stain and water repellent fabrics, firefighting foams, carpets and countless other household and industrial products.

This sounds great, right?

Wrong. Because those forever chemicals aren’t staying inside those handy-dandy products. No, they’re leaking into water supplies and because they don’t biodegrade, they’re accumulating in our environment and in our very own bodies.

But this isn’t a new problem. Because PFASs have been in our systems since the 1950s, researchers have been trying to figure out how to manage forever chemicals since…well, forever. And recently engineers at UC Riverside have made progress by showing a way to break down PFASs in water. Their findings are published in Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.

First author of the paper Sharma Yamijala is a postdoctoral researcher in the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering. Yamijala figured out that it is possible to use excess electrons to break the carbon-fluorine bond of PFASs in water. This process subsequently leaves by-products that could be capable of accelerating the process.

"In a real water treatment scenario, the excess electrons could come from metal-containing compounds placed in the water under ultraviolet radiation. The electrons from these compounds will interact with the PFA molecules and break them," Yamijala said.

While the discovery that this is process is possible is not so new, understanding why it happens was exciting for the engineers. "People knew you could do this but didn't know why," said senior author Bryan Wong, an associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering. "Our simulations define the bigger picture that we can refine to find ways to break down PFAs faster or more efficiently in the future."

Sources: Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
SEP 04, 2020
Microbiology
Researchers Discover a Way to Use Microbes to Help Make Plastic
SEP 04, 2020
Researchers Discover a Way to Use Microbes to Help Make Plastic
Researchers have discovered that some bacteria can make ethylene in a way we never knew about; microbes that metabolize ...
SEP 14, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Using a laser to cool a polyatomic molecule has never been done before - until now
SEP 14, 2020
Using a laser to cool a polyatomic molecule has never been done before - until now
Scientists from Harvard have devised a technique that allows them to slow down a polyatomic molecule using a laser. This ...
SEP 16, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Sub-nanoparticle catalysts prove effective
SEP 16, 2020
Sub-nanoparticle catalysts prove effective
Researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have developed a technique to control the size and composition of sub-n ...
SEP 25, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Colossal Study for the Missing (Anti)Matter
SEP 25, 2020
Colossal Study for the Missing (Anti)Matter
Physicists believe that our observable universe exists in a mirrored configuration: any fundamental particle such as pro ...
OCT 11, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The mysteries of tiny surfing robots revealed
OCT 11, 2020
The mysteries of tiny surfing robots revealed
Mechanical engineers from Michigan Technological University have implemented the laws of surface tension and propulsion ...
OCT 29, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Harnessing energy from mechanical vibrations
OCT 29, 2020
Harnessing energy from mechanical vibrations
A study published in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering highlights the development of a novel energ ...
Loading Comments...