Purafy’s project leader Dr. Arghavan Mirahsani is working with two professors in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Queen’s University, Dr. Louise Meunier and Dr. Ehssan Koupaie, on a recently awarded NSERC Alliance, which will develop a “Graphene Kidney” mechanism to treat Canadian waters contaminated with polyfluoroalkyl substances.
What are PFAS?
Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large, complex, and ever-expanding group of manufactured chemicals widely used to make various everyday products. They pose a significant threat to Canadian freshwater systems. Although substantial advances have recently been made, the environmental fate of PFAS is unclear and without full treatment options.
The impact of PFAS at Canadian contaminated sites results from their widespread use in cosmetics, materials, and fire retardants. Contaminated sites are often located near surface water, but excavation and pump-and-treat systems are inefficient and costly. Effective in-situ treatment technologies are urgently needed, particularly for PFAS-impacted soils, pore water, and associated freshwaters.
“Preservation of clean water and engineering new approaches to the remediation of contaminated water challenges is of the utmost importance to our company’s mission at Purafy,” says Dr. Arghavan Mirahsani.
“The outcome of this Graphene Kidney project aims to provide a means for on-site and effective PFAS treatment with Purafy’s functionalized graphene materials by offering an advanced water filtration mechanism that is safe and easy to use.”
“The goal of this project is to develop a Graphene Kidney, which would operate much the same as a kidney does to filter fluids in the human body. Taking advantage of graphene nanomaterials, we aim to characterize interactions between graphene and PFAS (and its degradation products) and subsequently design a highly effective yet economical in-situ filtration technology to remediate PFAS from contaminated pore and groundwater,” says Dr. Meunier.
“This project will provide highly qualified personnel (HQP) with a unique opportunity to experience various aspects of research, from modelling and design to hands-on experiments, scale-up, and economic analysis,” says Dr. Koupaie.
This project is also connected to a recently awarded Tier 2 Ontario Research Fund – Research Excellence project based at Queen’s, “Integrated approaches to characterize, detect, and treat Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) in the aquatic environments of Ontario.”
The Graphene Kidney would benefit Canada by offering an effective alternative to current remediation practices. Clean-up costs for PFAS-contaminated sites in Canada are estimated at $150M to $1.5B, based on inefficient removal technologies. When excavated, PFAS can be transferred to landfills, where contamination of leachate is already a concern.
“This technology is expected to quickly gain acceptance because of its simple process, which could be applied to clean-up more sites in Canada. The Graphene Kidney could also treat other emerging contaminants, and this research could be expanded to treat complex, multi-contaminant polluted waters, improving water quality in Canada and strengthening Canada’s position worldwide in state-of-the-art remediation technologies,” says Dr. Meunier.
For more information on the Graphene Kidney project, and to stay informed about its progress, visit www.purafy.com.