UV photolysis of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in dilute aqueous solution

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Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is very persistent in the environment and widely detected in the water environment. Only some advanced methods with extreme reaction conditions are shown to be capable of degrading the compound efficiently, and almost all the earlier investigations used very high PFOA concentrations. The compound is detected normally at very low concentrations in the water environment, while mild reaction conditions for its degradation are preferable. This article aimed to elucidate photodegradation of PFOA in dilute aqueous solutions by combined UV wavelengths (185 nm+254 nm) and 254 nm using a newly designed UV jacket. PFOA degradation was greatly enhanced with the combined wavelengths with almost one hundred percent PFOA removals in four-hour reaction. The removals were well described by the first-order reaction kinetic. The removal efficiencies and rate values significantly decreased with smaller initial PFOA concentrations. But defluorination was greatly enhanced with smaller PFOA concentrations possibly due to accelerated decomposition of fluorinated intermediates of PFOA. Formic acid and acetic acid were two tentatively identified intermediates of PFOA photolysis while the former was a major intermediate predominantly controlling solution pH during the oxidation. The results demonstrated that PFOA photolysis by the combined wavelengths with mild reaction conditions can be greatly enhanced by proper design of UV jacket and reactor system.

Keywords: defluorination, degradation kinetic, intermediates, perfluorooctanoic acid, photodegradation

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