Researchers Pioneer Magnetic Method for PFAS Removal

Researchers Pioneer Magnetic Method for PFAS Removal

Ph.D. candidate Xiao Tan holds a magnet attracting PFAS particles to the side of a vial of contaminated water, watched by Dr. Cheng Zhang. (Image courtesy of the University of Queensland)

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Researchers at The University of Queensland in Australia have pioneered a simple, fast and effective technique to remove per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals from water.  

Using a magnet and a reusable absorption aid that they developed, polymer chemist Dr. Cheng Zhang and Ph.D. candidate Xiao Tan at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology have cleared 95% of PFAS from a small amount of contaminated water in under a minute.

“Removing PFAS chemicals from contaminated waters is urgently needed to safeguard public and environmental health,” Zhang says.

“But existing methods require machinery like pumps, take a lot of time and need their own power source. Our method shows it is possible to remove more of these chemicals in a way that is faster, cheaper, cleaner and very simple.

“Because our process does not need electricity, it can be used in remote and off-grid communities.”  

The PFAS removal technique developed by Zhang and Tan involves treating contaminated water with a new solution called a magnetic fluorinated polymer sorbent.

“This solution that we developed coats the PFAS particles and then we can use a magnet to attract, isolate and remove them,” Zhang says. “The solution itself can be reused up to 10 times.

“Our team will now scale up the testing and we hope to have a commercially available product ready in the next three years.”


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