Clarkson professor Yang receives NSF CAREER Award For PFAS Research
POTSDAM -- Yang Yang, an assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Clarkson University, has been awarded the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award for his research entitled: “Piezoelectric Mechanocatalytic Destruction of PFAS in Solid Matrices at Ambient Conditions: An Integrated Research and Education Plan.” The $550k in funding begins on May 1, 2023 and is good through 2028.
Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are synthetic chemicals that have been manufactured and used in numerous consumer products and industrial applications since the 1940s. PFAS are among the most stable chemicals ever produced. During the last two decades, increasing detection of PFAS in various environmental media has raised significant concerns about their persistence, stability, and adverse impact including toxicity to living organisms and humans. With the gradual phase-out of PFAS from consumer and industrial products, stocks of obsolete PFAS chemicals are becoming solid wastes. In addition, large quantities of PFAS solid wastes are increasingly being generated including wastewater sludge, contaminated soils, and spent granular activated carbon (GAC) and ion exchange (IX) media used to remove PFAS from contaminated drinking water sources. Currently, thermal processes such as incineration and pyrolysis have emerged as the most effective for treating and destroying PFAS laden solid wastes at industrial and commercial scales. However, PFAS thermal treatment processes require high temperatures (150-900 °C) and often generate gaseous streams containing toxic intermediates and products of incomplete combustion (PICs) that require additional treatment to mitigate their releases into the environment.The overarching goal of this CAREER project is to lay the foundation for the development and validation of a novel piezoelectric material (PZM)-assisted ball milling (BM) process capable of treating and destroying PFAS solid wastes at room temperature and ambient pressure. To advance this goal, Professor Yang proposes to explore the activation of mixtures of catalytic piezoelectric materials (PZMs) and PFAS chemicals/solid wastes using a BM reactor to generate high electric potentials to decompose and mineralize PFAS into benign inorganic products. The successful completion of this project will benefit society through the generation of new fundamental knowledge and the design and synthesis of reactive PZMs to advance the development of more effective and sustainable technologies for the treatment and destruction of PFAS solid wastes. Additional benefits to society will be achieved through student education and training including the mentoring of one graduate student and one undergraduate student at Clarkson University.