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A breakthrough in the handling of PFAS waste

18 August 2022
On Thursday 18 August an article appeared in Science which may be considered as a breakthrough in the handling of PFAS waste.

The authors, Trang et al. (Science (2022), 377 (6608), 839-845), from the Northwestern University near Chicago found a chemical method to attack the PFAS molecule. The reaction works for PFAS with a carboxyl group, such as PFOA, but not for those with a sulfonyl group such as PFOS. By mixing the PFAS waste with a warm (ca. 120 °C) mixture of dimethylsulfoxide and sodium hydroxide the polar head of the molecule is attacked. After that a chain reaction takes place so that also carbon-fluorine chain is falling apart within 24 hours. This is very good news because if it will work on a larger scale – and the simplicity of the reaction tells that it probably will – all PFAS with carboxyl groups present in waste or polluted soil or water can be treated with no problematic chemicals left at the end. Also, GenX was successfully tested although the reaction was slower and more complicated. It means that in future Teflon factories may be able to destroy their waste in a relatively simple reactor.  Read more about this subject here (in Dutch).