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Sales is a professor at Drexel University, and he has experimented a little bit with biological treatments for PFAS with little success. But while chatting with one of his colleagues at Drexel’s Nyheim Plasma Institute, he learned that plasma was being used to kill bacteria and other contaminants in water, and wondered if it might be effective on PFAS. Plasma is the fourth state of matter after solids, liquids, and gases, and it is created by applying heat or electricity to gas. In September 2017, when the Department of Defense announced new funding for technologies to degrade PFAS, Sales asked the Nyheim researchers if they would be interested in collaborating. They secured a grant and got to work.
In January, Sales published a study detailing the results of that collaboration. After testing a new plasma-based treatment system on water samples contaminated with 12 different types of PFAS, they found that it degraded significant amounts of all of the compounds, and for some types of PFAS, the system degraded more than 90 percent of the contamination.