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UAF Machine Breaks Down PFAS

Center for Innovation, Commercialization, and Entrepreneurship

Technology developed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks can break down PFAS chemicals in water. UAF’s Center for Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship spun off a company called Aquagga  that’s marketing the technology. 

"Fluorine-Carbon bond is one of the strongest in organic chemistry. And PFAS unfortunately, is a short chain of fluorine-carbon bonds."

UAF entrepreneur in residence and Aquagga co-founder and CEO Nigel Sharp is partnered with UAF and University of Washington PHD students on a machine developed and patented by UAF’s Jonathan Kamler, which can fracture the so-called forever chemicals.  

"It operates a bit like a pressure-cooker with high temperatures and high pressures to create a really oxidated environment, and it breaks the bonds of the fluorine-carbon, and the PFAS chain is going to fall apart." 

Sharp says the technology was originally developed as an energy efficient way to treat sewage sludge, but while marketing it, they realized it had an even more important application.

"We're like 'it doesn't just break down the sewage sludge, it breaks down everything in it.' and they're like 'well, can it break down PFAS?' and we're like, 'yeah!' and they're like 'no one can do that,' and we're like 'oh really?'”  

The Aquagga technology has been showcased at water conferences around the country, and already won awards, most recently the top prize at this month’s Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge. Sharp says they’re working with an Alaska based solid waste company to pilot the technology to treat PFAS contaminated landfill leachate. 

Dan has been in public radio news in Alaska since 1993. He’s worked as a reporter, newscaster and talk show host at stations in McGrath, Valdez and Fairbanks. Dan’s experience includes coverage of a wide range of topics, from wolf control to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and dog mushing.