New water treatment knocks out ‘chemicals for good’ forever

UBC's new water treatment method permanently removes 'chemicals'

UBC researchers have devised a unique adsorbent capable of capturing all the PFAS present in water sources. Credit: Mohseni Laboratories / UBC

Engineers at the University of British Columbia have developed a new water treatment method that safely, effectively, and permanently removes “chemicals” from drinking water.

“Think of the Brita filter, but a thousand times better,” said Dr Madjid Mohseni, UBC professor of chemical and biological engineering who developed the technology.

Chemical forever, officially known as PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances) is a large group of substances that make some products nonstick or stain resistant. There are more than 4,700 PFAS in use, mainly in raincoats, non-stick cookware, anti-stain agents and fire-fighting foams. Research links these chemicals to a range of health problems including hormonal disturbances, heart-related diseaesgrowth retardation and cancer.

To remove PFAS from drinking water, Dr. Mohseni and his team devised a unique adsorbent that traps and holds all the PFAS present in the water source.

The PFAS is then destroyed using special electrochemical and photochemical techniques, also developed at the Mohseni lab and partially described in a recently published paper chemistry.

Dr Mohseni explains: “Although there are treatments available on the market, such as activated carbon and ion exchange systems that are widely used in homes and industry, they are not effective. all PFASs are different or they need a longer processing time.

New water treatment knocks out 'chemicals for good' forever

Abstract graphic. Credit: chemistry (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2023.137743

“Our adsorption media captures up to 99 percent of PFAS particles and is also renewable and potentially reusable. This means that when we remove PFAS from these materials, they I wouldn’t create more highly toxic solid waste which would be another big environmental challenge.”

He explained that although PFAS are no longer made in Canada, they are still integrated in many consumer products and can then leak into the environment. For example, when we spray/stain-resistant or waterproof materials, wash raincoats treated with PFAS, or use certain foams to put out fires, the chemicals end up in our water lines. Or when we use cosmetics and sunscreens that contain PFAS, these chemicals can enter the body.

For most people, exposure is through food and consumer products, but they can also be exposed from drinking water—especially if they live in areas with contaminated water sources.

Dr Mohseni, whose research team is also focused on developing water solutions for indigenous, remote and rural communities, notes: “Our adsorption medium is particularly beneficial. for people living in smaller communities who lack the resources to implement the most advanced and expensive solutions can obtain PFAS They can also be used in the form of decentralized water treatment and at home.”

The UBC team is gearing up to test the new technology at several locations in BC starting this month.

“The results we get from these field studies will allow us to further optimize our technology and make products ready that cities, industries and individuals have,” said Dr. Mohseni. can be used to remove PFAS in their water.”

More information:
Fatemeh Asadi Zeidabadi et al, Electrochemical degradation of PFOA and its common substitutes: Evaluation of key parameters, roles of active species and transformation pathways, chemistry (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2023.137743

quote: New water treatment ‘forever chemical’ for good (2023, March 22) retrieved March 22, 2023 from Treatment-zaps-chemicals -good.html

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