Innovative Ways to Destroy PFAS Challenge

Funding Agency:
Environmental Protection Agency

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of synthetic chemicals that have been widely used for more than 60 years to make plastics, firefighting foams, and lubricants, and to help make products stain-resistant, waterproof, and nonstick. Newer forms of PFAS have been adopted over the past few years to replace older forms of PFAS compounds that were discontinued. Addressing and managing PFAS in the environment is one of the most pressing issues facing EPA, states and regions. This issue is particularly challenging because PFAS chemicals have a very strong carbon-fluorine chemical bond that leads to persistence in the environment and makes their complete destruction difficult. Given the ubiquitous nature of PFAS and increasing public concerns, EPA and its state, tribal, local and federal partners are looking for greater certainty when making decisions about disposal and treatment of PFAS containing materials and PFAS contaminated media/waste. PFAS compounds are found at different concentrations in various waste streams including aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), bio-solids, ground water, sludge and soil.

There is an urgent need to better understand PFAS and to develop efficient, cost-effective solutions to manage and/or destroy PFAS contaminated media and waste.

EPA is partnering with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP); the Environmental Council of States (ECOS) and the Environmental Research Institute of the States (ERIS); Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy; and Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, to co-sponsor a technical challenge regarding the destruction of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The challenge asks solvers to submit detailed plans for a non-thermal way of destroying PFAS in concentrated film forming foam (AFFF), while creating the least amount of potentially harmful byproducts.  

Currently, EPA is investigating all methods of destroying PFAS. Incineration has been used to treat PFAS-contaminated media, and EPA scientists are collaborating with the private sector to evaluate the effectiveness of thermal treatment technologies to completely destroy PFAS. The goal of this challenge is to discover new non-thermal technologies and approaches that can remove at least 99 percent of PFAS in unused AFFF, without creating any harmful byproducts. Although PFAS compounds can be found in various waste streams, the challenge is focused on unused AFFF.

Challenge End Date: November 23, 2020

Agency Website

Eligibility Requirements

  • Winning Solvers must certify they do not have identical or essentially equivalent work currently funded by a Federal agency.
  • Federal employees acting within the scope of their employment should consult his or her ethics official before participating in the Challenge.
  • Solvers are not required to give up any of their intellectual property (“IP”) rights to the Seeker to be eligible to receive an award.

Amount Description

  • The Seeker may award a total prize award pool of $50,000. The minimum full award amount is $30,000. The Seeker can allocate higher individual award amounts, as deemed appropriate. The Challenge award will be contingent upon results of critical analysis and evaluation by the Seeker. Meeting the Technical Requirements does not guarantee that the proposed solution will receive an award from the Seeker. Partial cash prizes may be considered for solutions that meet some, but not all, of the criteria.
  • Winning solvers may have the added potential opportunity for field testing of the winning design concept(s) in partnership with EPA and DoD’s ESTCP.

Funding Type





Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences

External Deadline

November 23, 2020