New bioremediation material can clean ‘forever chemicals’

This new development may help dispose of harmful "forever chemicals."

Brandie Jefferson 
 PFAS are widely distributed in the environment.
PFAS are widely distributed in the environment.

A novel technology for using bioremediation to clean chemical pollutants has been developed by a collaborative team that includes Joshua Yuan, chair and professor of energy, environmental & chemical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis’ McKelvey School of Engineering.

The material has the potential for commercial application for disposing of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals.” A certain type of firefighting foam — used to put out gasoline fires, among others — is one of the more notorious sources of PFAS. These substances can threaten human health and ecosystem sustainability when released into the environment.

Published July 28 in the journal Nature Communications, the research was a collaboration between Yuan and Susie Dai, associate professor at the Texas A&M Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology and Bioenvironmental Sciences Program.

“This is a new concept of treatment train integration,” said Yuan, former director of the Synthetic and Systems Biology Innovation Hub at Texas A&M. An expert in biomaterial and bioprocess design, Yuan contributed to the design of the new plant-based material, which absorbs PFAS. The combined materials can then be fed to a microbial fungus.

Read more on the Texas A&M website.

The McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis promotes independent inquiry and education with an emphasis on scientific excellence, innovation and collaboration without boundaries. McKelvey Engineering has top-ranked research and graduate programs across departments, particularly in biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and computing, and has one of the most selective undergraduate programs in the country. With 165 full-time faculty, 1,420 undergraduate students, 1,614 graduate students and 21,000 living alumni, we are working to solve some of society’s greatest challenges; to prepare students to become leaders and innovate throughout their careers; and to be a catalyst of economic development for the St. Louis region and beyond.

Click on the topics below for more stories in those areas

Back to News