Removal of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from water by adsorption: Role of PFAS chain length, effect of organic matter and challenges in adsorbent regeneration
By Erica Gagliano, Massimiliano Sgroi, Pietro P Falciglia, Federico G A Vagliasindi, and Paolo Roccaro
January 16, 2020
Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a wide group of environmentally persistent organic compounds of industrial origin, which are of great concern due to their harmful impact on human health and ecosystems. Amongst long-chain PFAS, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) are the most detected in the aquatic environment, even though their use has been limited by recent regulations. Recently, more attention has been posed on the short-chain compounds, due to their use as an alternative to long-chain ones, and to their high mobility in the water bodies. Therefore, short-chain PFAS have been increasingly detected in the environmental compartments. The main process investigated and implemented for PFAS removal is adsorption. However, to date, most adsorption studies have focused on synthetic water. The main objective of this article is to provide a critical review of the recent peer-reviewed studies on the removal of long- and short-chain PFAS by adsorption. Specific objectives are to review 1) the performance of different adsorbents for both long- and short-chain PFAS, 2) the effect of organic matter, and 3) the adsorbent regeneration techniques. Strong anion-exchange resins seem to better remove both long- and short-chain PFAS. However, the adsorption capacity of short-chain PFAS is lower than that observed for long-chain PFAS. Therefore, short-chain PFAS removal is more challenging. Furthermore, the effect of organic matter on PFAS adsorption in water or wastewater under real environmental conditions is overlooked. In most studies high PFAS levels have been often investigated without organic matter presence. The rapid breakthrough of PFAS is also a limiting factor and the regeneration of PFAS exhausted adsorbents is very challenging and needs more research.