Researchers from Drexel University in Pennsylvania have developed a water treatment solution which they refer to as ‘plasmatron technology’, claiming that the new solution can destroy harmful chemicals in water rather than filtering them out.
According to a study conducted by the researchers and published in the journal Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, the study saw the development of a device called a “gliding arc plasmatron”, which can reportedly break down PFAS contaminants in water.
The impact of man-made chemicals such as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in water has been linked to the development of illnesses including cancer, and a recent report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) asserted that PFAS are likely detectable in most major water supplies in the US.
Currently, the main method of removing PFAS from water involves filtering water using carbon filters or reverse osmosis technology, but the researchers claim that current filtration methods merely collect PFAS. So, unless filters are incinerated at high temperatures, the used filters can “become a new source of PFAS”.
The Drexel team believes that to destroy the chemicals, a method needs to split the carbon-fluoride bond holding the substances together, and by breaking these chains into smaller pieces the PFAS are rendered inert.
The plasmatron solution essentially involves a rotating electromagnetic field that splits the chemicals apart in the water, and the process was described as the chemical equivalent of “using a blender to make a smoothie”.
Researchers claim the process takes one hour and uses less energy than it takes to boil a kettle, while removing more than 90% of PFAS from water.
Christopher Sales, PdD, associate professor of environmental engineering at Drexel University, said: “The current standard for dealing with PFAS-contaminated water is activated carbon filters. But the problem is that it only collects the PFAS, it doesn’t destroy it.
“So unless the filters are incinerated at high temperatures, the spent filters become a new source of PFAS that can make its way back into the environment through landfill runoff and seepage.”
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