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Electrochemical degradation of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in groundwater

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Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) represent hazardous pollutants and are frequently detected in the environment, e.g. in contaminated groundwater. PFASs are persistent to biodegradation and conventional oxidation processes such as ozonation. In this study electrochemical degradation of PFASs on boron-doped diamond (BDD) electrodes is demonstrated. Experiments were performed with model solutions and contaminated groundwater with a dissolved organic carbon (DOC) content of 13 mg/L. The perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs) perfluorobutanoate, perfluoropentanoate, perfluorohexanoate, perfluoroheptanoate and perfluorooctanoate, and the perfluorinated sulfonic acids (PFSAs) perfluorobutane sulfonate, perfluorohexane sulfonate, perfluorooctane sulfonate and 6:2 fluorotelomer sulfonate were detected in the groundwater samples. At PFAS concentrations ranging from 0.26 to 34 mg/L (0.7 to 79 μM), the degradation of PFASs was achieved despite of the high DOC background. Pseudo first-order kinetic constants of PFSA degradation increased with the increase of carbon chain length. Fluoride formation as well as the generation of PFCAs with shortened chain lengths was observed. Inorganic byproducts such as perchlorate were also formed and have to be considered in further process optimization.

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