March 28, 2023

New Method Discovered to Remove “Forever Chemicals”

Most industrial processes produce byproducts that include per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are toxic and can persist for so long they have been dubbed “forever chemicals”. However, Canadian scientists may have found a way to combat these harmful materials.

Dr Madjid Mohseni and his team from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada have developed a new method that can remove these PFAS from drinking water using a silica-based filter that can draw out a wide range of harmful chemicals.

The filter uses an adsorbing material, which keeps the target molecules on the filter’s surface, and through electrical currents and chemical reactions, the molecules can be permanently removed from the environment.

Dr Mohseni explains: “Our adsorbing media captures up to 99 per cent of PFAS particles and can also be regenerated and potentially reused. This means that when we scrub off the PFAS from these materials, we do not end up with more highly toxic solid waste that will be another major environmental challenge.”

The new method is a welcome breakthrough as previous filters were temporary fixes and allowed the chemicals to remain in the environment (some still remain, as they were first invented in the 1940s).

Real-world applications have exciting potential as they can be used by small communities who lack resources, and the filter can be augmented to work in tandem with other recycling systems.