As an acronym, PFAS meant very little to most people when it first started making headlines. PFAS, short for poly and perfluoroalkyl substances, are the chemicals used to create resistance to water, oil and stains and include such substances as PFOS and PFOA (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid and perfluorooctanoic acid).
Stable, with long half-lives, PFAS do not readily breakdown in the environment. Yet because they are water soluble, low levels of PFAS have been detected in the soil and water in many areas around the globe, raising concerns about their impact on human health and the environment.
Inhance Technologies, a Texas-based international provider of polymer materials science solutions has spent the past two years developing a method to eliminate perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), from fluoropolymer resins - without affecting product performance.
And today, the company has announced the commercial launch of a process that does precisely that. Inhance Technologies’ process, called Fixpure, eliminates PFAS, including PFOA, down to non-detectable levels from resins, fine powders and waxes.
"Fluoropolymers, particularly polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), are incredibly useful plastics for a broad variety of applications and markets. However, the fluorosurfactants used in PTFE production, particularly perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) have been associated with human health and environmental issues, causing many to examine its place in formulations and products,” said Inhance Technologies President and CEO Andrew Thompson.
He added that as manufacturers have migrated from PFOA to a variety of other perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for PTFE production, the focus on this broader family of materials, dubbed 'forever chemicals' for their biopersistence, has increased as well. T
he company’s solution is a timely one: while regulations concerning their use and concentration in products are under active discussion in many countries, the EU has a pending act that sets limits on specific PFAS substance to be enforced later this year.
"Our Fixpure process eliminates PFAS molecules from PTFE plastics and addresses public concern regarding these so-called 'forever chemicals' while also allowing for compliance with upcoming regulatory restrictions,” said Thompson.
He noted that as consumers, NGOs, government agencies and manufacturers seek more information regarding the impact of PFAS, significant efforts are under way to reformulate products away from PTFE plastics.
“These efforts have been only modestly successful, as it is difficult to replicate the performance of PTFE-containing products through other means.”
The process Inhance Technologies has developed is amenable to all fluoropolymers and is effective for submicron powders to pellets, including PTFE micropowders, regrind and recycled grades.
The process is available commercially at Inhance Technologies’ Houston, Texas manufacturing site, and is expandable globally.