Development of Next-Generation Electrochemical Systems for Short-Chain PFAs Removal and Remediation

Per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a critical challenge for water treatment and environmental remediation due to their persistence, low concentration, and unique physico-chemical properties. In particular, short-chain PFAS have been an emerging concern due to their high mobility and low affinity to most surfaces. Conventional techniques such as reverse osmosis and ion exchange are often ineffective due to their lack of selectivity, especially at low concentrations. Electrochemically mediated methods have become an alternative route due to modularity, energy efficiency, and elimination ofsecondary pollution. Here, we develop electrochemically-based methodologies for the selective capture, release, and destruction of long and short-chain PFAS. Our proposal explores the (1) selective capture and release of short-chain PFAS using a redox-functionalized polymers, and (2) combine boron-doped diamond (BDD) with our electrosorbents for sequential defluorination, thus creating one single device which combines PFAS removal with mineralization to fluoride. We combine the materials synthesis and characterization of these PFAS-selective electrodes with electrochemical engineering of the device. We also evaluate the electrochemical treatment for PFAS concentrations ranging from 1 ppb – 1 ppm in secondary wastewater effluents, groundwater, and various ionic strengths. Our project will benefit from a close collaboration with the Sanitary District of Decatur (SDD), as well as experts in analytical chemistry for PFAS quantification both at UIUC and Milikin University. The energy integration during the reactive separation process is expected to show orders-of-magnitude lower energy consumption compared to existing technologies, providing an energy- and cost-efficient option for PFAS remediation.

  • PI: Xiao Su
  • PI Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • September 1, 2023 – August 31, 2024