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Development of a chemical treatment process for perfluoroalkylated and polyfluoroalkylated substances (PFAS): determination of degradation mechanisms and kinetics

Start: 01 May 2022

End: 01 April 2025

Supervisor(s):
Eric van Hullebusch, Ioannis Ignatiadis, Stéphanie Betelu, Stefan Colombano, Hossein Davarzani

Status: In progress

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, their salts and derivatives, known as PFAS, are organofluorinated compounds of exclusively anthropogenic origin and have been in common use since the 1950s for domestic and industrial purposes. Their hydrophobic and hydrophilic, lipophobic and thermally stability properties make them an excellent surfactants used in the textile industry, as waterproofing agents, in the food industry, as surfactants on cardboard packaging and in aqueous film-forming foams for fire-fighting. This wide range of uses, coupled with the many ways in which they enter the environment, through leaching from soils, by wastewater treatment plant effluents or through atmospheric contamination during production and combustion processes, are responsible for mainly diffuse pollution of biota, soils, groundwater and surface water worldwide. Numerous toxicological studies on these substances have also demonstrated carcinogenic effects, impacts on fertility and human immune defences. In PFAS, perfluorooctanesulphonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are among the most widespread PFAS in the various environmental compartments. They are also among the surfactants recognised as the most frequently cited endocrine disruptors. Among the remediation techniques, pumping, sparging or thermal desorption, combined with sorption by activated carbon, are the most commonly used, with very variable yields. Although thermal desorption can achieve efficiencies of between 95 and 99% of soil defluorination, the energy requirement remains too high in view of the economic and environmental challenges of the 21st century. The objective of this thesis is therefore to develop and optimise, by an in-depth study of the mechanisms and kinetics of the degradation of these products, an in situ reductive defluorination process for organofluorinated substances, as well as a methodology for in situ monitoring of the depollution.

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Biogeochemistry at the Antropocene of Elements and Emerging Contaminants
Biogeochemistry at the Antropocene of Elements and Emerging Contaminants
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, their salts and derivatives, known as PFAS, are organofluorina...