Sparc Technologies (ASX: SPN) has reported a 100% improvement in environmental remediation following the first round of laboratory tests on the ability of graphene-based materials to fix water contaminated with poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS).
The tests used a graphene-enhanced absorbent material developed by Sparc in partnership with the University of Adelaide, which is capable of performing at a significantly higher level than other commercially-available remediation products.
Test work incorporated a range of PFAS compounds including perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
Results showed the material – known as polyamine-modified reduced graphene oxide, or ParGO – was up to twice as effective at absorbing PFAS as granulated activated carbon (GAC), which is the current industry standard absorbent and was used as a control in the tests.
Sparc managing director Tom Spurling said the results were “very encouraging”.
“This enables us to move forward and test the product in an industrial environment, as well as to scope the product’s economic viability,” he said.
“An exciting part of the next stage of our testing will involve an investigation as to whether our graphene membrane has the ability to effectively destroy PFAS as part of its application.”
He said follow-up tests will address re-usability; biofilm build-up; speed of extraction and its relationship to the amount of graphene required; and testing the efficiency of sorbents in immobilising PFAS in contaminated soils.
The resulting data will be used to scope the economics of Sparc’s graphene-based adsorbent, at which point the company will look to engage with an industry partner on a commercial basis.
PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals invented in the 1940s which have since proven to have a drastic environmental impact, contaminating soil and water (including ground and drinking water) through their use in industrial applications.
The chemicals remain highly-persistent in the environment years after use and will accumulate in the human body for long periods of time.
As exposure continues, they can cause significant health effects in humans and animals, including reproductive and developmental issues, liver and kidney and immunological problems.
Studies have also shown extreme exposure to PFAS can contribute to decreased infant birth weight, effects on the immune system, cancer and tumours and thyroid hormone disruption.
In a recent report, the US Department of Defense identified at least 126 military installations containing potentially harmful levels of PFAS, with a related remediation cost of more than $2.59 billion.