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PIGE as a Rapid Screening Tool for PFAS
Graham Peaslee (University of Notre Dame)
Given the extent of environmental PFAS contamination from decades of global use, the ability to rapidly screen for their presence in different media is lacking from the variety of analytical techniques currently being used to identify the fate and transport of PFAS in the environment. We have developed a nuclear experimental technique called Particle-Induced Gamma-ray Emission (PIGE) spectroscopy as a rapid screening tool for the presence of total fluorine, which can be used, in many cases, as a surrogate for PFAS. A small particle accelerator is used to excite the nuclei in a solid target, and the resultant gamma-ray emission from fluorine nuclei present in the surface can be used to quantify the amount of fluorine in the sample in minutes. This analysis is done ex vacuo, and typically with minimal sample preparation for solids, and only a single solid-phase extraction process for aqueous solutions. Our laboratory can typically process hundreds of samples per day with detection limits comparable to other total fluorine assays. We can achieve lower detection limits in liquid samples by increasing the volume of sample extracted, and have recently been testing a drinking water method for all anionic PFAS that takes minutes to analyze and achieves a sensitivity below 25 ppt for the sum of all PFAS. Examples of where this technique may be of the most value in contaminated site characterization, drinking water screening, and identifying sources of PFAS in commercial products will be presented, together with some ideas of how this technique is used to complement standard analytical methods for total mass balance experiments to help identify where unidentified PFAS precursors may exist.
About the speaker:
Graham Peaslee is a professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame, and directs the applied nuclear physics research program there. This involves an active research group of physicists, chemists, biologists and engineers working on a wide range of environmental projects, including identifying PFAS in environmental samples and commercial products as well as other chemicals of concern such as halogenated flame retardants and heavy metals. He also is involved in developing new medical radioisotopes and rapid screening methods in general for trace environmental contaminants. He has published more than 230 peer-reviewed papers, most with student co-authors.