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Informational Only

This challenge is no longer accepting new submissions.

Innovative Ways to Destroy PFAS

EPA & partners seek non-thermal technologies & approaches that destroy PFAS in aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) without generating hazardous byproducts.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Total Cash Prizes Offered: $50,000
Type of Challenge: Ideas, Scientific
Partner Agencies | Federal: U.S. Department of Defense, Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, and Environmental Security Technology Certification Program
Partner Agencies | Non-federal: Environmental Council of States, Environmental Research Institute of the States, Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy, Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment
Submission Start: 08/25/2020 07:00 AM ET
Submission End: 11/23/2020 11:59 PM ET


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); and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy; and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, to launch 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 aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), while creating the least amount of potentially harmful byproducts.

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. Addressing and managing PFAS in the environment is one of the most pressing issues facing EPA and its partners. 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 extremely difficult. Given the ubiquitous nature of PFAS and increasing public concerns, EPA and its partners are looking for greater certainty when making decisions about disposal and treatment of PFAS containing materials and PFAS contaminated media/waste.

Although PFAS compounds can be found at different concentrations in various waste streams including aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), biosolids, ground water, sludge and soil, the challenge is focused on unused AFFF. 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 remove at least 99 percent of PFAS in unused AFFF while preventing the creation of harmful byproducts.


Total Cash Prize Pool

The total cash prize pool is $50,000.

Prize Breakdown

EPA may award a total prize award pool of $50,000. The minimum full award amount is $30,000. EPA may allocate higher individual award amounts, as deemed appropriate. The Challenge award will be contingent upon results of critical analysis and evaluation by EPA and its partners. Meeting the Technical Requirements does not guarantee that the proposed solution will receive an award from EPA. Partial cash prizes may be considered for solutions that meet some, but not all, of the criteria.

Winning Solver(s) may be invited to reduce their solution to practice. Solvers should make it clear if they have the interest and ability for subsequent development phases and would be willing to consider future collaborations and/or subsequent competitions with support of government staff and facilities.


Terms and Conditions

  • EPA enters into this agreement under Section 104(b)(2) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (the Clean Water Act), 33 U.S.C §1254(b)(2) and Section 103(b)(2) of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 103(b)(2) supplemented by Section 102(2)(2)(F) of NEPA, 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(F), which directs all Federal agencies, where consistent with the foreign policy of the United States, to lend appropriate support to initiatives, resolutions and programs designed to maximize international cooperation in anticipating and preventing a decline in the quality of the world environment.
  • Solvers will not receive compensation for resources or time invested in addressing the Challenge. Only the winning solution(s) will receive a cash award.
  • Solvers retain their rights to all intellectual property (e.g., details and design of their technology) that may be disclosed to the sponsors over the course of the Challenge. Technical details and designs will not be disclosed or published without permission from the technical point of contact named in the registration.
  • Solvers reserve the right to remove themselves from the competition at any time, up to final submission of results for evaluation, by notifying the sponsor in writing. The technical point of contact must make the request in writing on behalf of his/her team.
  • Solvers that do not submit their results and technology description by the submission deadline will be automatically removed from the competition and subject to the same terms as if they had forfeited in writing. The submission deadline may be extended at the discretion of the sponsors, but any extension will apply to all registered Solvers.
  • Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on August 25, 2020. Late submissions will not be considered. ·

Non-Endorsement:  EPA does not endorse any collaborator or solver, nor any product, service or enterprise that may appear in submissions. Furthermore, by recognizing winning submissions, EPA is not endorsing products, services or enterprises that may appear in those submissions.

Funding Restrictions:

  • 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.
  • All prize awards are subject to EPA verification of the winners’ identity, eligibility, and participation in the Challenge. Solvers must not be suspended, debarred, or otherwise excluded from doing business with the Federal Government. An individual or entity that is determined to be on the GSA Excluded Parties List ( is ineligible to participate. Individuals entering on behalf of or representing a company, institution, or other legal entity are responsible for confirming that their entry does not violate any policies of that company, institution, or legal entity.
  • As a condition of participation, all Solvers must agree to indemnify the Federal Government against third-party claims for damages arising from or related to competition activities. Entrants are not required to obtain liability insurance or demonstrate financial responsibility in order to participate in the competition. By entering the contest, Solvers agree to hold EPA harmless from all legal and administrative claims to include associated expenses that may arise from any claims related to their entry or its use.

Judging Criteria

Judging Panel

The judging panel may be composed of federal and/or non-federal scientists, engineers, and other technical experts, including subject matter experts from the listed partners for this Challenge. All persons or entities that submit a proposal will receive a high-level evaluation and be notified as to the status of their submission. Decisions by EPA cannot be contested.

Judging Criteria

Submissions will be judged by how they address the criteria listed below.

This challenge is intended to encourage the development of new approaches, technologies, or technology combinations that meet the following objectives:

  1. Must be applicable for use on unspent aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) from unused AFFF concentrates containing 3 percent and/or 6 percent PFAS;
  2. Must destroy at least 99 percent of the PFAS in unused AFFF concentrates, including PFAS byproducts that may form by volatilization, particulates, and leaching from effluents;
  3. Must demonstrate scalability and cost effectiveness for a defined quantity over thermal methods used to treat AFFF.

Solvers are not required to give up any of their intellectual property rights to EPA and its partners to be eligible to receive an award.

Additional features that are desired (but not required) of submitted PFAS destruction technologies/approaches:

  • Demonstrates compatibility with current production and destruction practices;
  • Avoids creating other toxic residues after destruction of PFAS, including hazardous chemicals identified in EPA’s ToxCast database,;
  • Is currently accessible in the marketplace or near market ready.

The ideal technology would:

  • Perform onsite destruction of at least 99 percent of PFAS in AFFF formulations;
  • Be currently on the market or near market;
  • Destroy parent PFAS compounds;
  • Destroy short-chain PFAS byproducts (e.g., CF4) if volatilization occurs;
  • Destroy or neutralize any unwanted byproducts (e.g., HF) that would need to be incinerated or landfilled in a hazardous waste facility;
  • Be more cost effective than thermal destruction;
  • Have good environmental and public health outcomes (e.g., does not transfer PFAS or any unwanted byproducts into other media);
  • Be potentially applicable to other PFAS waste streams (e.g., biosolids, contaminated ground water, etc).

How to Enter

To submit a solution to the Innovative Ways to Destroy PFAS Challenge please follow the link here to InnoCentive and follow the instructions.

Submission URL: