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MSU scientists: 'diamond technology' proven to eliminate PFAS in wastewater

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Scientists at Michigan State University and the Fraunhofer Center Fraunhofer Center for Coatings and Diamond Technologies say they have created a viable solution to eliminate polyfluoroalkyl chemicals, widely known as PFAS in wastewater. If proven to work on a large scale, the discovery could be groundbreaking, as 1.5 million Michigan residents are currently being affected by PFAS contamination, that’s according to the Michigan Environmental Council. And PFAS, due to its fluorine-carbon bonds are so difficult to break down, that scientists have dubbed the toxic substance as the “forever chemical.”

However a team of researchers at MSU/Fraunhofer claim a new process breaks down the contaminants’ formidable molecular bonds, cleaning the water while systematically destroying the PFAS compounds. It’s a process known as ‘diamond technology’ as Dr. Cory Rusinek, an electrochemist at the Fraunhofer Center explains.

“It is not really a diamond, where as you think of a gemstone,” Rusinek said. “But for this application it is what we call poly-crystalline diamonds. So it is actually tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of individual diamond crystal brains. And it is really that structure, that carbon bonding structure, that makes it so rigid that it can really stand up to the voltage or the current that you need to destroy PFAS in a wastewater sample.”

The way it works is this: the diamonds breaks down the PFAS compound, transforming it from a hazardous material to carbon dioxide, water and fluoride.

While success has been made in the lab, Dr. Rusinek says, the next step is a pilot-scale investigation.

“Really what we are trying to do is take to a next scale to prove it is feasible to scale up a larger volume that can be taken to industry and used.”

Depending on its success and other advances, Rusinek says this process could eventually become a complementary component of a municipal drinking water system.

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