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NEW ELECTROCHEMICAL METHOD DETECTS PFOS AND PFOA: BUBBLE NUCLEATION IS THE BASIS FOR RAPID AND COST-EFFECTIVE ANALYSIS
Hiolski, E.
Chemical & Engineering News, 2019

Researchers have developed an electrochemistry-based method to detect surfactants, specifically PFOS and PFOA, with high sensitivity and specificity (Analytical Chemistry 2019, https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.analchem.9b01060). The most commonly used detection method uses HPLC-MS/MS, which requires complex instrumentation and can cost up to $300 per sample. The new method is based on a phenomenon known as electrochemical bubble nucleation. Applying electric potential to an electrode in an aqueous solution splits water into hydrogen gas and oxygen. Increasing current increases the gas concentration near the electrode until a bubble forms, blocking the electrode surface and causing the current to drop. Surfactants reduce surface tension and make it easier for such bubbles to form, meaning the amount of current required to form those bubbles is inversely related to surfactant concentration. The method could detect PFOS and PFOA concentrations as low as 80 µg/L and 30 µg/L, respectively. Preconcentrating samples using solid-phase extraction allows detection limits > 70 ng/L, the health advisory level for drinking water set by U.S. EPA. The ultimate goal is to create a handheld device for testing water in streams and other field sites—not just drinking water. https://cen.acs.org/environment/persistent-pollutants/New-electrochemical-method-detects-PFOS-and-PFOA/97/web/2019/05



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