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02-13-2017

Clarkson University Profs Receive NSF Grant to Study Treatment of Toxic Chemical Found in Drinking Water in New York and Other States

The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant to Clarkson University professors for their research on electrical plasma treatment of per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs).

Selma Mededovic ThagardPFASs have recently received considerable attention due to their toxicity, ubiquitous presence and recalcitrance in the environment. Recent studies have detected them in drinking water in New York State and just this month in fast food wrappers, including hamburger and sandwich wrappers, pastry bags, beverage cups and French fry containers.

PFASs are used in a wide range of industrial applications and the manufacture of consumer goods, and may be found in cleaners, textiles, leather, paper, paints, fire-fighting foams and wire insulation. Manufacture and disposal of PFAS-containing formulations and products, and use of aqueous film forming foams at numerous sites has resulted in PFAS contamination of groundwater and drinking water supplies. This issue is particularly problematic due to the lack of effective treatment technologies to remove PFASs from contaminated water.

PFASs are found in the blood of people and animals all over the world. Recent studies have linked PFASs to kidney and testicular cancers, thyroid disease, low birth weight and immunotoxicity in children, among other health issues.

Jean S. Newell Distinguished Professor of Engineering Thomas Holsen, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Selma Mededovic Thagard and Research Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Bernard Crimmins received an Early-concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) for their work in this area.

Holsen, Thagard and Crimmins have developed a novel treatment process based on electrical discharge plasma that is highly effective in degrading PFASs at efficiencies significantly better than alternative treatment technologies. This work was recently described in a manuscript in Environmental Science and Technology, on Jan. 12, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b04215.

The EAGER funding will allow the team to advance the fundamental understanding of the chemical reaction mechanisms by which reactive species produced by the plasma reactor transform perfluoroalkyl compounds in water and identify degradation byproducts.

Learn more about the project at the NSF website: https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1630854 .

Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, New York, Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Clarkson University Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Selma Mededovic Thagard received an Early-concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) from the National Science Foundation.

[Photographs for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/smthagard.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Kelly Chezum, VP for External Relations, at 315-268-4483 or kchezum@clarkson.edu.]

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