With PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, remaining one of the largest threats to our national water supply as well as our health and safety, it's no surprise that countless leaders and scientific minds are racing to find solutions. While many have been unsuccessful thus far, one 'boom' in the case has sparked intrigue and promise recently. According to a release by the Ohio Water Resources Center, researchers have developed a new method to eliminate harmful PFAS from products and water supplies, addressing a significant environmental challenge.

These persistent "forever chemicals" are commonly found in non-stick cookware, food packaging, and cosmetics. Due to their durability, they do not break down easily and remain in the environment indefinitely. You can even find these chemicals in your various spray-on sealants and waterproof sprays used for hiking, meaning these chemicals were used inches from our lakes and rivers for years. 

Linda Weavers, co-director of the Ohio Water Resources Center, highlights the dual nature of PFAS: “It has water resistance. It has stain resistance. And so those are the good things about it,” she said. However, their resilience also poses significant environmental and health risks.

To combat this, researchers have turned to ultrasound technology as a potential solution. “With a high enough power and the right frequency, you create cavitation bubbles in water,” explained Weavers. “When they collapse, they compress the gas inside and heat it up, effectively breaking down the PFAS.”

Despite its potential, the ultrasound method currently requires a substantial amount of energy to degrade these compounds. “One of the challenges as engineers is to find the most energy-efficient ways to apply this technology and identify the best use cases,” Weavers noted.

The advancement is a beacon of hope for water conservation and quality. Reducing PFAS contamination could lead to safer water supplies and better health outcomes over time. As these chemicals are phased out and removed from the environment, we can expect to see gradual improvements in our health and safety as well as our water quality.

This technological development could also be pivotal in addressing water supply safety nationwide, providing new opportunities for water conservation efforts and supporting the growing demand for clean water across the country. 

For more information on PFAS, check out this highly interesting discussion with Industry Editor Brock Yordy, "Insights on Water Safety & Global Sustainability"