Improving Thermal Destruction Technologies for Materials Laden with PFAS

SERDP has funded a variety of projects focused on the development of innovative ex situ treatment technologies for materials laden with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Although separation of PFAS from contaminated water has been demonstrated to some extent with these technologies as well as with traditional technologies such as granular activated carbon (GAC), each process also generates one or more residual or concentrate streams that require careful management.

ER FY21 Thermal Treatment Blog

SERDP aims to improve the understanding of the effectiveness and sustainability of thermal destruction technologies for materials laden with PFAS in 2021. The following new SERDP projects address the research goals of assessing the fate and behavior of PFAS and co-occurring chemicals during production and processing of residual product streams from various technologies; improving understanding of PFAS fate during thermal reactivation of GAC; developing a better understanding of incineration on materials of interest; and developing novel or modified sorbents that are more sustainable and less energy intensive.

  • Dr. Kyle Doudrick and his team at the University of Notre Dame will use advanced analytical techniques to improve understanding of PFAS behavior during thermal treatment and better manage PFAS-laden wastes and regeneration of spent adsorbents. This approach will advance operation of waste incinerators for PFAS and lifecycle assessment of PFAS adsorbent treatment systems and reduce human/ecosystem exposure to PFAS. ( Project Webpage)
  • At the University of California, Riverside, the goal of Dr. Jinyong Liu and his team’s proof-of-concept project is to use a limited amount of thermal energy to significantly enhance the treatment effectiveness and energy efficiency of reductive PFAS degradation in challenging water matrices that contain high concentrations of salts and organic solvents. Project results will provide insights into the deep or near-complete destruction of concentrated PFAS in challenging water matrices. ( Project Webpage)
  • Dr. Paul Koster van Groos with APTIM Federal Services and his team will investigate low temperature thermal treatment approaches for PFAS as well as develop and expand infrared spectroscopy approaches for quantifying the performance of thermal treatment with respect to off-gas characterization. This approach will incorporate a variety of laboratory experiments probing the thermal decomposition of PFAS with different headgroups, perfluoroalkyl chain length, and degree of fluorination. ( Project Webpage)
  • Dr. Paul Koster van Groos will also lead a proof-of-concept project to evaluate the efficacy and sustainability of layered double hydroxide (LDH) sorbents for PFAS removal. Results will provide an efficient and sustainable alternative method for treating and managing PFAS-impacted water. ( Project Webpage)
  • At the University of North Dakota, Dr. Feng Xiao and his team’s proof-of-concept project will study the behavior and decomposition mechanisms of PFAS laden on GAC in various thermal processes. The team will also investigate the modification of GAC with ammoxidation and impregnation approaches and evaluate the performance of raw/tailored GAC for PFAS removal from natural waters and nanofiltration/reverse osmosis (NF/RO) brine with multiple cycles of adsorption‒reactivation‒reuse. ( Project Webpage)
  • Dr. Ying-Hsuan Lin and her team at the University of California, Riverside will combine experimental and theoretical approaches to characterize the physicochemical properties of regenerated GAC in this proof-of-concept project. They will also examine the chemical residuals remaining in the reactivated carbon materials and degradation products produced and subsequently released into the atmosphere after incineration. ( Project Webpage)
  • At Brown University, Dr. C. Franklin Goldsmith and his team will create a computational tool that automatically provides an elementary kinetic mechanism for incineration of PFAS mixtures. The team will assess the potential for release of residual PFAS and reaction byproducts generated during thermal regeneration of GAC, as well as examine how the nature of the commonly used activated carbons affects the regeneration process for these materials. ( Project Webpage)
  • Dr. Brian Gullett, with the U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development, and his team will assess the effectiveness of thermal decomposition technologies for PFAS destruction to address needs related to aqueous film-forming foam feedstocks and contaminated sources. The project aims to provide practical operating parameters of temperature and residence time that will ensure complete destruction of PFAS without problematic byproducts in systems applicable to multi-media treatment. ( Project Webpage)

More information and reports from these projects will become available on their individual project webpages. To learn more about PFAS research and initiatives, browse the SERDP and ESTCP website for related program overviews and updates. 

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