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CycloPure, Inc.

Superfund Research Program

Remediation of Perfluorinated Chemicals in Water Using Novel High-Affinity Polymer Adsorbents

Project Leader: Gokhan Barin
Grant Number: R43ES029401
Funding Period: Phase I: March 2018 - September 2018
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CycloPure is developing novel, high-affinity cyclodextrin polymers for the cost-effective remediation of hazardous per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from water.

Decades of use of perfluorinated chemicals in manufacturing and in aqueous film-forming foam formulations used at airports and military bases has led to widespread prevalence in water resources, affecting water supplies serving at least 16.5 million customers. Toxic at low concentrations, with confirmed links to a number of serious illnesses, including thyroid disease and several cancers, PFAS contamination of drinking water represents a significant public health concern. In response to water supply closures across the Northeast, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lowered its health advisory level for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) from 400 ppt to 70 ppt, a six-fold decrease. Separately, numerous states have adopted or are considering significantly lower health advisory levels, including Pennsylvania at 6 ppt.

Although many technologies have been explored for remediation of PFOA- and PFOS-contaminated water, adsorption-based methods using activated carbon remain the most widely used approach. However, activated carbon has notable shortcomings including susceptibility to fouling by natural organic matter, energy-intensive regeneration process, and most importantly, low affinities which result in the need for significantly large amounts of material to achieve desired levels of removal. Designing adsorbents that address these deficiencies is critical in the development of efficient and cost-effective processes in the remediation of PFOA and PFOS.

Leveraging the flexibility of its cyclodextrin-based technology platform, CycloPure's ongoing research efforts on PFAS removal are focused on developing bio-derived polymer adsorbents with high affinities for PFOA and PFOS in water to provide a superior remediation solution. The long-term goal of this project is to act on these strengths and develop a commercially viable process for the remediation of PFOA- and PFOS-contaminated water resources. The objective of this project is to develop and screen new polymer derivatives with high affinity for PFOA and PFOS that can be cost-effectively produced in large scale.

This study is structured around three aims:

  • Optimization of reaction parameters to develop a scalable polymerization process;
  • Development of new polymers by tailoring the chemical nature of cyclodextrins and crosslinkers; and
  • Characterization of adsorption parameters of these polymers for PFOA and PFOS.

These research aims will produce the most technically superior polymer formulation(s) for PFOA/PFOS remediation and provide the basis for their further development and testing. CycloPure’s PFAS remediation technology has the potential to outperform conventional treatment processes and provide effective solutions for impacted communities to access clean and safe water.

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