Application of electron beam technology to decompose per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in water

Kaushik Londhe, Cheng Shiuan Lee, Slavica Grdanovska, Rachel Smolinski, Noor Hamdan, Carrie McDonough, Charles Cooper, Arjun K. Venkatesan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The widespread detection of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in environmental compartments across the globe has raised several health concerns. Destructive technologies that aim to transform these recalcitrant PFAS into less toxic, more manageable products, are gaining impetus to address this problem. In this study, a 9 MeV electron beam accelerator was utilized to treat a suite of PFAS (perfluoroalkyl carboxylates: PFCAs, perfluoroalkyl sulfonates, and 6:2 fluorotelomer sulfonate: FTS) at environmentally relevant levels in water under different operating and water quality conditions. Although perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid showed >90% degradation at <500 kGy dose at optimized conditions, a fluoride mass balance revealed that complete defluorination occurred only at/or near 1000 kGy. Non-target and suspect screening revealed additional degradation pathways differing from previously reported mechanisms. Treatment of PFAS mixtures in deionized water and groundwater matrices showed that FTS was preferentially degraded (∼90%), followed by partial degradation of long-chain PFAS (∼15–60%) and a simultaneous increase of short-chain PFAS (up to 20%) with increasing doses. The increase was much higher (up to 3.5X) in groundwaters compared to deionized water due to the presence of PFAS precursors as confirmed by total oxidizable precursor (TOP) assay. TOP assay of e-beam treated samples did not show any increase in PFCAs, confirming that e-beam was effective in also degrading precursors. This study provides an improved understanding of the mechanism of PFAS degradation and revealed that short-chain PFAS are more resistant to defluorination and their levels and regulation in the environment will determine the operating conditions of e-beam and other PFAS treatment technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number123770
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
StatePublished - May 1 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Defluorination
  • Degradation mechanism
  • Electron-beam
  • Groundwater
  • PFAS degradation


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