University of Queensland researchers have pioneered a technique to remove per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals from water.
The breakthrough could potentially be applied to help remove contamination around the Williamtown RAAF base Red Zone.
Using a magnet and a reusable absorption aid, polymer chemist Dr Cheng Zhang and PhD candidate Xiao Tan at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology have cleared 95 per cent of PFAS from contaminated water in under a minute.
"Removing PFAS chemicals from contaminated waters is urgently needed to safeguard public and environmental health," Dr Zhang said.
"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."
PFAS substances are synthetic compounds used in industry and consumer products since the 1950s, but they persist in the environment potentially leading to human health problems.
The PFAS removal technique developed by Dr Zhang and Mr 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," Dr Zhang said.
"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."
The work has been funded by the Australian Research Council, the National Health and Medical Research Council, The Chemours Company and the US Department of Defence.
The work follows on from other research projects focused on the remediation of PFAS in recent years.
Funded through the Australian Research Council Special Research Initiatives scheme, the research program supports the development of innovative technologies to investigate and remediate PFAS-contaminated soil, groundwater, waterways and marine systems.
The project, led by Professor Behdad Moghtaderi, aims to deliver the building blocks necessary for development of an end-to-end PFAS remediation solution.
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