Cobalt-catalyzed Defluorination of Branched Perfluorinated Compounds

Project Overview

Due to the persistence of PFASs in the environment, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of California, Riverside, have teamed up to work on novel ways to degrade PFASs by using a multi-faceted approach that combines chemical and biological tools to investigate cobalt (Co)-catalyzed defluorination. The team will also investigate the defluorination products of this process and their toxicity. In addition, they will investigate the development of PFASs that are more easily degradable in the environment and new strategies for removing current types of PFASs from the environment. The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center is working with the researchers on an awareness campaign that involves several seminars and a conference about the research findings. These efforts will build a collaborative network among the PFASs research community and increase the public’s awareness of environmental contamination from PFASs.

The project will have broad impacts on the design and remediation of PFASs and generate new sustainable and environmentally benign PFASs. This will not only help stop the release of highly recalcitrant PFASs, but also enable simplified environmental treatment with controlled chemical and biological approaches. In addition to improved environmental wellbeing, the project will support the training and development of graduate and undergraduate students from a diverse population in STEM fields (e.g., Chemistry, Environmental Science, and Chemical/ Environmental Engineering majors). Their participation in this project will prepare them for careers in industry, academia, or government agencies. Furthermore, the education and outreach campaign will draw more attention the issue of PFASs, and it will also demonstrate the pivotal roles of sustainable chemistry, engineering, and materials science in solving grand environmental challenges to science and government leaders and the general public.

This research and education campaign is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Meet the Team

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Yujie MenYujie Men, Ph.D., UIUC-PI
Assistant Professor
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
College of Engineering
Dr. Men’s Research Group


Nancy HolmNancy Holm
Assistant Director for Sponsored Research, Public Engagement, and Communications
Illinois Sustainable Technology Center
Prairie Research Institute


Elizabeth MeschewskiElizabeth Meschewski
Research Specialist
Illinois Sustainable Technology Center
Prairie Research Institute


University of California, Riverside

Jinyong LiuJinyong Liu, Ph.D., UC-PI
Assistant Professor
Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering
Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering
Dr. Liu’s Research Group


David VolzDavid C. Volz, Ph.D., UC-CoPI
Associate Professor
Department of Environmental Sciences
College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences