Skip to main content
Solvay researchers looking at fluoropolymers samples

Investing in PFAS destruction technologies

Share to

The Syensqo company, comprising the solutions, activities and markets represented in the article below, was spun off from Solvay group in December 2023.

Revolutionary solutions to destroy remaining fluorosurfactants (PFAS) in the environment

Because of their unique performance, fluoropolymers have enabled a lot of progress. They are used in many key applications such as semiconductor manufacturing and medical devices, and play an important role in the energy transition, as they are used in electric vehicle batteries, hybrid engines, green hydrogen applications and renewable energy installations.

The assessment of alternative materials has shown that, when available, they frequently cannot meet the critical performance characteristics of fluorinated materials, and are not safer. 

Fluoropolymers should therefore continue to be very important in the future. Until recently, the production of some of them required fluorosurfactants, the PFAS substances under the most intense spotlight due to their toxicological profile. 

True to its commitment to building a more sustainable chemical industry, Syensqo is developing and investing in emerging technologies that can break down these “forever chemicals” and destroy fluorosurfactants present in the environment. This can be done through biodegradation for example (using microorganisms), or through their chemical destruction.

Solvay scientist checking fluoropolymer product purity

“The idea is to break down PFAS molecules in order to be able to eliminate them,” says Michael Finelli, Chief Technology & Innovation Officer at Syensqo. “We need to put together different technologies, including some we don’t have internally, to make sure we come up with the best combination of technical approaches to achieve that goal.”

To do that, Syensqo identified several partners at the forefront of developing biodegradation technologies, with the ability to develop organisms or enzymes that will destroy the PFAS molecules. The aim is to gather the best research and determine how these solutions could be applicable on the ground. “We mapped out all the actors in PFAS destruction technologies and selected the ones that were at the forefront of developing biodegradation technologies,” sums up Nicolas. These partners include Princeton University and the University of Belgrade, as well as a couple of start-ups. Simultaneously, Syensqo is also investing in its own research on the chemical degradation of PFAS (through mineralisation).

Moving towards non-fluorosurfactant technologies

In addition to finding partners and developing technologies that can eliminate PFAS from past emissions, Syensqo has quadrupled its investment in Research & Innovation. We were able to develop new, more sustainable fluoropolymers that no longer require the use of fluorosurfactants. This enabled Syensqo to eliminate the use of fluorosurfactants in the U.S in 2021.

By 2026, Syensqo will manufacture nearly 100% of its fluoropolymers without fluorosurfactants, at its Spinetta Marengo site in Italy. In the meantime, we have entered a transition period towards new, Non-Fluorosurfactant technologies.

While this transition occurs, investments in new abatement technologies will continue and Syensqo has a track record of continuous investments in state-of-the-art technologies with the objective to eliminate fluorosurfactant emissions from its manufacturing at Spinetta Marengo.