Improving Low Temperature Thermal Treatment of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and Infrared (IR) Spectroscopy Methods to Monitor Treatment Efficacy

Paul Koster van Groos | Aptim Federal Services, LLC

ER21-1135

Objective

There are many materials laden with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that require treatment to reduce possible exposure risks. Thermal treatment approaches are widely utilized despite concerns regarding the fate of fluorine species produced during such treatment. The primary objectives of this project are to (1) investigate and improve low temperature thermal treatment approaches for PFAS and (2) develop and expand infrared (IR) spectroscopy approaches for quantifying the performance of thermal treatment with respect to off-gas characterization. This work will account for the fate of fluorine species including hydrogen fluoride and volatile organic fluorine species (VOF), and evaluate treatment additives that may improve low temperature thermal treatment. A vetted IR spectral library of relevant VOF species will be developed to help users assess thermal treatment efficacy, and state-of-the art IR analytical tools will be investigated for their ability to quantify low concentrations of VOF.

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Technical Approach

The objectives of this project will be achieved through a variety of laboratory experiments probing the thermal decomposition of PFAS with different headgroups, perfluoroalkyl chain length, and degree of fluorination. Further, experiments will evaluate candidate alkali and alkali earth metal amendments that have been shown in preliminary testing to enhance decomposition of PFAS. Experiments will also support the development of IR spectroscopic approaches for measuring VOF. In particular, IR reference spectra for a variety of relevant VOF will also be generated using well-vetted methodologies. The following technical tasks will be performed during the project:

  • Task 1. Evaluate thermal decomposition of representative PFAS.
  • Task 2. Evaluate alkali and alkali earth metal additives for enhancing decomposition.
  • Task 3. Develop an IR spectral library of VOF gases related to PFAS decomposition.
  • Task 4. Evaluate advanced IR detection and quantification methods for VOF.
  • Task 5. Evaluate PFAS thermal decomposition under simulated field conditions.

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Benefits

This project will provide the Department of Defense (DoD) with improved understanding of PFAS thermal decomposition processes, and improved tools for evaluating gaseous products of decomposition. Novel treatment additives that facilitate low temperature PFAS treatment will be evaluated and IR reference spectra of VOF will be measured and disseminated to the community. This effort will improve the DoD’s ability to manage PFAS-laden materials more cost-efficiently and sustainably, and will ultimately allow for better protection of human and ecological well-being while preserving our communal resources. (Anticipated project completion - 2024)

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Points of Contact

Principal Investigator

Paul Koster van Groos

Aptim

Phone: 609-895-5367

Program Manager

Environmental Restoration

SERDP and ESTCP

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