Clarkson University Research on Low Cost Sensors for PFAS Highlighted in C&EN Chemical and Engineering News

May 12, 2023

Research conducted at Clarkson University to develop easy-to-use low-cost sensors for testing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) was recently highlighted in a feature article in the Volume 101, Issue 14 Issue of C&EN Chemical Engineering News, a chemical science and technology magazine covering high-profile research, government, industry, professional and technical news from around the world for the chemical, chemical engineering and related fields. The article summarized the different approaches to develop low cost PFAS sensors by researchers around the world.

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Clarkson research on PFAS sensors, performed in the laboratory of Silvana Andreescu, the Egon Matijevic Chair in Chemistry at Clarkson, targets the development of field-portable sensors, with hopes to commercialize the sensors in the coming years.  

Several chemistry graduate students, AbdUr Rehman, Reem Khan, Mohamed Hassan and two postdoctoral researchers, Zihni Onur Uygun and Swapntil Tiwari, are involved in this project to develop novel sensing materials that target PFAS and develop PFAS sensors.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of synthetic chemicals that have been used in a wide range of industries and consumer products. PFAS are of growing concern because of their ubiquitous presence and harmful effects on the environment and human health. Advisory limits for characterizing PFAS exposure have been set at very low concentrations, with proposed EPA limits of 4 parts per trillion (ppt) in drinking water for two of the most toxic compounds, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and per-fluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). Such low levels are very difficult to detect and methods that can measure these chemicals in the field are not available.

The Clarkson team uses electrochemistry and designs redox interfaces that interact with PFAS, generating a change in the electrochemical response, proportional to the concentration of PFAS. The team works to improve the stability and robustness of these sensors and to develop protocols to manufacture the sensors at the large scale for field use.

“Through our efforts, we hope to advance the use of sensors for achieving ultrasensitive detection of PFAS, and develop the measurement tools necessary to monitor and better understand the overall distribution, concentration and release of these emerging contaminants in the environment,” Andreescu said.

The topic was part of an invited symposia arranged by Andreescu at the Pittcon 2023 meeting in Philadelphia this Spring featuring sensors and analytical technologies for emerging contaminants detection. Work on low cost PFAS sensors in Andreescu’s lab is funded by the national Science- Partnership (NSF-PFI) for Innovation program.

More details about this article can be found in the C&EN Issue (April 30, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 14).

The article can be found by visiting

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