Potsdam, NY (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Department of Defense Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) has awarded funding to the projects of three Clarkson University professors.

Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Selma Mededovic, Jean S. Newell Distinguished Professor of Engineering Thomas Holsen, and Assistant Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering Yang Yang will receive awards for their two projects to remove per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) from water.

PFAS are a group of chemicals that have been widely used for decades. As additives in numerous consumer products, they have many desirable properties, including exceptional chemical resistance. However, this property makes it very difficult to remove them from water using current treatment processes.

Their chemical stability also makes PFAS persist in the environment, causing significant concerns for human and ecological health. They are found in the blood of people and animals all over the world and have been linked to kidney and testicular cancers, thyroid disease, and low birth weight and immunotoxicity in children.

Mededovic and Holsen were awarded $265,000 in project funding to demonstrate the technical feasibility of using a novel plasma spinning disc reactor for the complete destruction of PFAS in undiluted aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF), which are used as fire suppressants, and to determine the treatment costs of a scaled-up system.

The project, “Complete Destruction of Undiluted AFFF by a Plasma Spinning Disc Reactor,” centers around the reactor electrode design and parametric optimization of the plasma spinning disc reactor for complete mineralization of long- and short-chain PFAS including PFAS precursors in current-use and legacy AFFFs.

PFAS-containing AFFF foams have caused significant environmental impact with remediation efforts expected to cost in the billions of dollars. To minimize future impacts, current AFFF formulations are being replaced with shorter chain alternatives and eventually PFAS-free foams.

During this switchover, significant amounts of undiluted AFFF will need to be disposed of. Therefore, says Mededovic, it is critically important to develop an effective method to mineralize undiluted AFFF that produces no waste.

Yang’s group was awarded $250,000 in project funding to develop a universal treatment strategy to treat a wide range of PFAS in complicated water samples, such as AFFF-impacted groundwater and fire suppression system rinsing water.

The project, “Deep Destruction of PFAS in Complicated Water Matrices by Integrated Electrochemical Oxidation and UV-Sulfite Reduction,” integrates photochemical reduction with electrochemical oxidation to build a system that can drive both reductive and oxidative PFAS destruction reactions. The system is expected to be highly efficient for the treatment of all PFAS regardless of the molecular structure amidst high loads of organics and salts.

Yang says that the outcomes of his team’s project will prove that PFAS are not “forever” chemicals. Instead, they can be readily decomposed in a rationally designed sequence of treatments. The results should promote knowledge transfer to a field demonstration project through collaboration with the remediation industry and the PFAS research community.

Assistant Professor of Chemical & Environmental Engineering Jinyong Liu of the University of California, Riverside,  a world-renowned expert in catalysis, will contribute to the development of the photochemical reduction approach in Yang’s project.

The Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) is the Department of Defense environmental science and technology program, planned and executed in partnership with DOE and EPA, with participation by numerous other federal and non-federal organizations. SERDP invests across a broad spectrum of basic and applied research, as well as advanced development.

Read more about Mededovic’s and Holsen’s project at https://www.serdp-estcp.org/Program-Areas/Environmental-Restoration/ER22-3316.

Read more about Yang’s project at https://www.serdp-estcp.org/Program-Areas/Environmental-Restoration/Contaminated-Groundwater/ER22-3184.