Research suggests that exposure to high levels of certain, specific PFAS compositions and chain lengths can lead to adverse health outcomes. Efficient removal of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from contaminated water is urgently needed to protect public and environmental health.

Granular activated carbon (GAC) is the most commonly used sorbent to remove long chain PFAS. However, the slow sorption of PFAS, difficulty in regeneration, and competitive sorption of other co-pollutants significantly reduce its effectiveness for PFAS sorption.

The University of Queensland researchers have invented a simple, efficient method to remove PFAS contaminants from water. Researchers used a magnet and a reusable absorption aid for rapid, selective and efficient removal of multiple PFAS from real contaminated water at environmentally relevant concentrations.

xiao tan
PhD student Xiao Tan holds a magnet that attracts PFAS particles to the side of a bottle of contaminated water, watched by Dr Cheng Zhang

They were able to remove 95 percent of the PFAS from a small amount of contaminated water within a minute. This method shows that it is possible to remove more of these chemicals in a way that is faster, cheaper, cleaner and very simple.

Polymer chemist Dr. Cheng Zhang from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology said: “Because our process does not require electricity, it can be used in remote and off-grid communities.”

This new technique involves treating contaminated water with a unique, magnetically fluorinated polymer sorbent.

Doctor Zhang said: “This solution we developed coats the PFAS particles and then we can use a magnet to attract, isolate and remove them.”

“The solution itself can be reused up to 10 times. Our team is now scaling up testing and we hope to have a commercially available product ready in the next three years.”

Magazine reference:

  1. Xiao Tan, Dr. Pradeep Dewapriya, et al. Efficient removal of perfluorinated chemicals from contaminated water sources using magnetic fluorinated polymeric sorbents. Angewandte Chemie. DOI: 10.1002/anie.202213071