Turnkey PFAS Removal to Destruction Treatment Train

EPA Contract Number: 68HERC21C0020
Title: Turnkey PFAS Removal to Destruction Treatment Train
Investigators: Vitaku, Edon
Small Business: Cyclopure, Inc.
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2021 through August 31, 2021
Project Amount: $100,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2021) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Land Revitalization


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have emerged as a pervasive and persistent threat to drinking water throughout the world. Called ‘forever chemicals” because their high stability leads PFAS to build up in the environment. PFAS accumulates in the blood from exposures and is associated with various cancers and other illnesses. There is an urgent need for a technology that can both remove PFAS from contaminated waters and completely mineralize PFAS to prevent them from recirculating back into the environment.

The objective of this proposal is to develop a PFAS destruction method that can be incorporated in a turnkey Treatment Train solution that (1) uses our DEXSORB+ adsorbent to remove PFAS from water, (2) regenerates DEXSORB+ to allow adsorbent reuse, (3) concentrates the extracted waste into a “neat” solid, and (4) mechanochemically mineralizes PFAS into environmentally benign byproducts. Cyclopure has already developed Steps 1-3, and without any further sample processing, has designed a method for PFAS destruction.

Cyclopure’s preliminary studies show that a PFAS mixture composed of PFOA, PFOS, and PFHxS can be ball milled with a co-reagent to achieve >80% PFAS destruction with a fluoride recovery of ~60%. Our objectives are to achieve optimal conditions that yield quantitative PFAS destruction with fluoride recoveries of >95%. Identifying these conditions are critical to convert this PFAS Treatment Train from bench to a turnkey market solution. Destruction of PFAS by milling breaks the chemicals down to create fluoride and formate salts, one an industrially used fluoridating agent and the other an environmentally friendly de-icing salt. This raises the potential of a green, circular process where PFAS are mineralized to form useful byproducts, in contrast to incomplete PFAS destruction associated with high temperature incineration processes.

The high capacity of DEXSORB+ facilitates use of compact treatment vessels, which can be transported offsite for reconditioning at a centralized facility by simple wash to regenerate spent adsorbent and isolate the extracted PFAS into a solid waste for destruction. DEXSORB+ regeneration is extremely effective at concentrating a PFAS waste stream (e.g., 250 grams of PFAS from 2 billion liters of water treated at 120 ppt concentration). This efficiency and associated small treatment footprint supports the establishment of adsorbent regeneration and PFAS destruction facilities across the country at a low cost of investment. The proposed PFAS treatment train represents a cost-effective breakthrough in the removal and destruction of PFAS, providing water suppliers with a first-ever turnkey solution alternative.