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Low temperature destruction of gas-phase per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances using an alumina-based catalyst

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-25, 22:20 authored by Erin P. Shields, M. Ariel Geer Wallace

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) pose a major health and environmental problem. Methods are needed to ensure that PFAS are not released into the environment during their use or disposal. Alumina-based catalysts have been used for the abatement of small perfluorocarbons, e.g. tetrafluoromethane and perfluoropropane, emitted during the silicon etching process. Here, an alumina-based catalyst was tested to determine if these catalysts may facilitate the destruction of gas-phase PFAS. The catalyst was challenged with two nonionic surfactants with eight fluorinated carbons, 8:2 fluorotelomer alcohol and N-Ethyl-N-(2-hydroxyethyl)perfluorooctylsulfonamide. The catalyst helped decrease the temperatures needed for the destruction of the parent PFAS relative to a thermal-only treatment. Temperatures of 200°C were sufficient to destroy the parent PFAS using the catalyst, although a significant number of fluorinated products of incomplete destruction (PIDs) were observed. The PIDs were no longer observed by about 500°C with catalyst treatment. Alumina-based catalysts are a promising PFAS pollution control technology that could eliminate both perfluorocarbons and longer chain PFAS from gas streams.

Implications: The release of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) into the atmosphere can cause problems for human health and the environment. It is critical to reduce and eliminate PFAS emissions from potential sources, such as manufacturers, destruction technologies, and fluoropolymer processing and application sites. Here, an alumina-based catalyst was used to eliminate the emissions of two gas-phase PFAS with eight fully fluorinated carbons. No PFAS were observed in the emissions when the catalyst was at 500°C, lowering the energy requirements for PFAS destruction. This shows that alumina-based catalysts are a promising area for research for PFAS pollution controls and the elimination of PFAS emissions into the atmosphere.


Funding was provided for these experiments by the U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development as part of their PFAS Innovative Treatment Team initiative.