Nasim Pica is an environmental engineer working at CDM Smith Technology Transfer Unit. Prior to that she was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado State University working on bioelectrochemical treatment systems for remediation of emerging contaminants such as PFAS and 1,4-dioxane. She has a BS in Civil Engineering and an MS in Environmental Engineering from Sharif University of Technology and a PhD in Environmental Engineering from Colorado State University. Dr. Pica’s research interests include fate and transport of emerging contaminants, sustainable water reuse, food-energy-water nexus and non-traditional water resources. Currently, she is investigating fate and transport of PFAS in the environment through multiple projects and developing applied sustainable solutions for the treatment of 1,4-dioxane, perfluorinated, and chlorinated compounds.
Novel insights into PFAS s composition in AFFFs using ultrahigh-resolution Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry
The broad use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) has to led to globally sustained contamination of water resources. Aqueous film forming foams (AFFFs) have been linked to a majority of PFAS contaminations. More than 50 classes of PFASs have been identified with the use of quadrupole time-of-flight (qToF) and Orbitrap mass spectrometry. However, these classes have been referred to as the “tip of the iceberg” because there may be more unknown compounds to be identified. Ultrahigh-resolution via Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometry (FT-ICR MS) is capable of identifying thousands of molecular formulas in complex mixtures such as natural organic matter and hydrocarbons due to high mass-resolving power, high mass accuracy, and dynamic range (ratio of highest to lowest peak). This unmatched resolution is essential to differentiate analytes that differ in mass by roughly the mass of an electron while simultaneously detecting more than 80,000 compounds from the background matrix. Importantly, these compounds could not be identified by any other mass spectrometric technique and would thus remain undetected. Here we use FT-ICR MS to identify new compounds in AFFFs at the molecular level that can be used to guide the development of novel analytical approaches to catalogue PFASs associated with AFFF releases, and compounds potentially not detected on lower resolution MS systems. Our novel method will reveal PFAS “dark matter” composition with unparalleled mass accuracy and resolution, substantially improving AFFF fingerprinting and the assessment of environmental transport and transformation processes.