Solvent-Free Nonthermal Destruction of PFAS Chemicals and PFAS in Sediment by Piezoelectric Ball Milling

Nanyang Yang, Shasha Yang, Qingquan Ma, Claudia Beltran, Yunqiao Guan, Madison Morsey, Elizabeth Brown, Sujan Fernando, Thomas M. Holsen, Wen Zhang, Yang Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Studies on the destruction of solid per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals and PFAS-laden solid wastes significantly lag behind the urgent social demand. There is a great need to develop novel treatment processes that can destroy nonaqueous PFAS at ambient temperatures and pressures. In this study, we develop a piezoelectric-material-assisted ball milling (PZM-BM) process built on the principle that ball collisions during milling can activate PZMs to generate ∼kV potentials for PFAS destruction in the absence of solvents. Using boron nitride (BN), a typical PZM, as an example, we successfully demonstrate the complete destruction and near-quantitative (∼100%) defluorination of solid PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) after a 2 h treatment. This process was also used to treat PFAS-contaminated sediment. Approximately 80% of 21 targeted PFAS were destroyed after 6 h of treatment. The reaction mechanisms were determined to be a combination of piezo-electrochemical oxidation of PFAS and fluorination of BN. The PZM-BM process demonstrates many potential advantages, as the degradation of diverse PFAS is independent of functional group and chain configurations and does not require caustic chemicals, heating, or pressurization. This pioneering study lays the groundwork for optimizing PZM-BM to treat various PFAS-laden solid wastes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-203
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 14 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • PFAS
  • ball milling
  • mechanochemistry
  • piezoelectric material
  • sediment


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