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New magnetic method to remove PFAS chemicals from water

Research suggests that exposure to high levels of certain, specific PFAS compositions and chain lengths may lead to adverse health outcomes. Efficient removal of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from contaminated waters is urgently needed to safeguard public and environmental health.

Granular activated carbon (GAC) is the most commonly used sorbent to remove long-chain PFAS. However, the slow sorption of PFAS, difficulty in regeneration, and competitive sorption from other co-contaminants significantly reduce its effectiveness for PFAS sorption.

The University of Queensland researchers have invented a straightforward, efficient method for removing PFAS contaminants from water. Researchers used a magnet and a reusable absorption aid for rapid, selective, and efficient removal of multiple PFAS from real contaminated waters at environmentally relevant concentrations.

Xiao Tan
PhD candidate Xiao Tan holds a magnet attracting PFAS particles to the side of a vial of contaminated water, watched by Dr Cheng Zhang

They were able to clear 95 percent of PFAS from a small amount of contaminated water within a minute. This method shows it is possible to remove more of these chemicals in a way that is faster, cheaper, cleaner, and very simple.

Polymer chemist Dr. Cheng Zhang at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology said,“Because our process does not need electricity, it can be used in remote and off-grid communities.”

This new technique involves treating contaminated water with a unique, magnetic fluorinated polymer sorbent.

Dr. Zhang said,“This solution we developed coats the PFAS particles, and then we can use a magnet to attract, isolate and remove them.”

“The solution itself 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.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Xiao Tan, Dr. Pradeep Dewapriya, et al. Efficient Removal of Perfluorinated Chemicals from Contaminated Water Sources Using Magnetic Fluorinated Polymer Sorbents. Angewandte Chemie. DOI: 10.1002/any.202213071
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