Our Research Enzymatic biomaterials for PFAS degradation

Principal Investigator

Ariel Furst

  • Raymond (1921) & Helen St. Laurent Career Development Professor
  • Department of Chemical Engineering

Ariel L. Furst is the Raymond (1921) & Helen St. Laurent Career Development Professor of Chemical Engineering. She received a B.S. degree in chemistry from the University of Chicago in 2010 and a Ph.D. from CalTech in 2015. She was an A. O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow in the lab of Prof. Matthew Francis at UC, Berkeley developing sensors to monitor environmental pollutants. Currently, her lab combines biological, chemical, and materials engineering to solve challenges in human health and environmental sustainability. She is passionate about STEM outreach and increasing the participation of underrepresented groups in engineering.

Challenge:

How can we effectively remove dangerous and long-lasting chemicals from the environment?

Research Strategy

  • Identify molecular platforms for the degradation of PFAS based on biologically-scaffolded enzymes
  • Demonstrate pilot-scale systems in the laboratory and compare performance with commercially available alternates

Project description

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals that have been extensively used in consumer products, yet they do not readily degrade in our bodies or in the environment. Exposure to these compounds can lead to significant health issues including developmental effects on infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, and skeletal variations); cancer; liver damage; and thyroid effects. 

The danger posed by potential exposure to these compounds demands novel, easy-to-use, deployable remediation technologies, as current remediation methods are limited to inefficient capture. The research team will develop point-of-use methods for degrading these prevalent environmental pollutants. The proposed technology utilizes low-energy, scaffolded enzyme materials to move beyond simple capture to degrade the hazardous pollutants.

Additional Details

Impact Areas

  • Water

Research Themes

  • Water Purification & Desalination

Year Funded

  • 2022

Grant Type

  • Seed Grant

Status

  • Ongoing