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PFAS Sensor: Forever-Chemicals Finder

Battelle Number(s): 31421-E, 31745-E
Clearance Number: PNNL-SA-152629
Patent(s) Pending
Available for licensing in all fields
  • An illustration of PNNL’s PFAS Sensor used to detect ultra low levels if PFOS compounds in groundwater. Water samples flow in one end, through the maze and PFOS gets captured by  a sponge-like material in the middle.

  • PNNL’s PFAS Sensor offers fast detection of cancer-causing PFOS in the environment.

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PNNL PFAS Sensor Detects Toxic Contaminants

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), including perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) are a group of hazardous, cancer-causing chemical that persists in the environment and in our bodies. As a result, PFAS compounds, have been dubbed, "the forever chemical." It is used for coatings on non-stick cookware, for water repellant clothing, for food packaging and for firefighting foam. Recent studies have linked PFAS substances to elevated cholesterol, obesity, weakened immune system, endocrine disruption, and cancer. Federal health advisory levels are at a combined 70 parts per trillion, while some U.S. states have levels that are a fraction of even that. PFAS-related chemicals have been found in human blood in every state where testing has occurred.

One challenge is creating a tool that can quickly and accurately detect ultra-low PFAS levels in the environment – specifically, levels below the federal threshold. Point-of-use methods and devices for PFAS detection are rare, and often do not meet the selectivity and sensitivity requirements of real-world situations.

PNNL PFAS Sensor: An Unprecedented Method that Measures Miniscule Amounts in Water

PNNL’s patented electrochemical PFAS Sensor was jointly developed with New Jersey Institute of Technology and can rapidly detect and measure PFOS at levels that are two orders of magnitude lower than the federal health advisory (0.5 ng/L). It offers an unprecedented way to detect miniscule amounts of PFOS in water accurately and on-site. Historically, PFOS testing takes several hours to a few days - minimum. Rapid, on-site detection of super low levels of PFOS is the first step to protecting human health.

PNNL’s PFAS Sensor is the size of a microscope slide. It is etched with a maze-like path for water to flow through, with a sponge-like porous material that captures PFAS compounds. An electric current pulses through the technology, which gives an instantaneous measure of the amount of PFAS in the sample.

An added benefit is that the PFAS Sensor can be flushed clean with fast-flowing liquid to regenerate the device for repeat use. Plus, the technology can measure multiple contaminants at once on a single device.


PNNL’s PFAS Sensor could radically impact the ease and speed at which individuals or organizations can test groundwater, and ultimately protect themselves, their communities, and their ecosystems. The PFAS Sensor is relevant to a broad range of sectors including environmental remediation, municipal water, chemical manufacturing, petroleum, and the military.


  • Offers point-of-use, instantaneous detection and measurement of PFAS compounds, including PFOS
  • Measures ultra-low PFOS levels (as low as 0.5 ng/L)
  • PFAS Sensor can be used for other groundwater contaminants on a single device


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