Application of electron beam technology to decompose persistent emerging drinking water contaminants: poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and 1,4-dioxane

Project: Research project

Project Details


Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and 1,4-dioxane (1,4-D) are persistent emerging contaminants (ECs) that are currently under consideration for federal and state-specific regulations in drinking water. Both PFAS and 1,4-D are highly resistant to degradation and are not effectively removed by conventional drinking water treatment systems. Results from the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) 3 survey showed that >540 sites across the nation are contaminated with both PFAS and 1,4-D. The water providers are tasked with upgrading their treatment systems to address both these contaminants to meet upcoming regulatory standards. Hence, there is a need to identify technologies that can effectively remove both these contaminants. Water treatment via electron beam (e-beam) has been proven effective at treating a wide range of contaminants, including perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), polychlorinated biphenyls, and trichloroethylene. While the e-beam process is often considered similar to advanced oxidation processes (AOPs), e-beam technology is unique in that it produces both highly oxidizing and reducing species at the same time. E-beam has not seen wide spread adoption because of operating costs and inability to treat large flow rates. The Illinois Accelerator Research Center at the DOE’s Fermilab is developing a novel e-beam accelerator that will be cheaper to operate than conventional e-beam technologies, treat greater flow rates and be compact enough so that it is portable.

We hypothesize that e-beam technology can decompose both PFAS and 1,4-dioxane from drinking waters simultaneously. The specific objectives of the proposed study are as follows: (i) to determine the effectiveness of 9 MeV electrons provided by the Fermilab’s Accelerator Application Development and Demonstration (A2D2) tool to decompose PFAS and 1,4-D; (ii) to determine if the process causes the formation of other hazardous byproducts during water treatment; (iii) to apply the optimized treatment to field (surface and ground) water samples from the DOE and DOD sites contaminated with PFAS and 1,4-D, and; (iv) to assess the economic feasibility based on energy demands for large-scale water treatment applications. To achieve these objectives, select PFAS and 1,4-D will be tested individually and as co-contaminants (mixtures) for degradability via e-beam treatment in DI and contaminated field water samples. We will specifically test the impact of (i) varying e-beam dose; (ii) initial contaminant concentration, and (iii) chemical additives, on the performance of e-beam accelerator. PFAS and 1,4-D analysis will be performed utilizing the corresponding U.S. EPA methods.

Results from the proposed work will provide the very first demonstration of the effectiveness of e-beam technology to decompose environmentally relevant levels of PFAS and 1,4-D in water. To the best of our knowledge, the effectiveness of e-beam to degrade 1,4-D has not been studied in the past. Existing technologies, such as granular activated carbon (GAC) filters and reverse osmosis (RO) systems do not degrade PFAS, but rather concentrate them either by adsorption (GAC) or membrane rejection (RO). The proposed e-beam application can provide opportunities to completely degrade these persistent and toxic chemicals from contaminated waters and additionally may be utilized to treat concentrated process flows resulting from other water treatment applications (e.g. RO rejects). Results from the proposed project will assess process feasibility and compare the performance of e-beam technology with other commercially available treatment technologies (e.g. AOP) for water treatment. Successful demonstration of a cost-effective e-beam treatment approach through the proposed research will enable the implementation of the technology for large-scale water treatment applications.

Effective start/end date9/25/199/24/21


  • High Energy Physics: $224,000.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.