Development and Application of Passive Sampling Technologies for Per and Poly-Fluorinated Substances

The Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP)

Developing reliable, fast and cost-efficient sampling methods for the monitoring of legacy and emerging PFASs is important for advancing our understanding of their fate and behaviour in the environment. Determination of their transport is integral to site investigations, remediation strategies and regulatory decisions. Common approaches for monitoring contaminants in aquatic environments are active (discrete or grab sampling) and passive sampling methods. The development of passive sampling devices (PSDs) for PFASs has seen them emerge as a promising tool to complement and overcome some of the issues associated with traditional active sampling methods. Firstly, PSDs may enhance efficiency and analytical capabilities by preconcentrating samples in situ, making clean-up and extraction processes simpler, reducing costs and improving limits of detection. Secondly, the compact size and minimal need for refrigeration make PSDs relatively easy to store and transport. This facilitates sampling at remote areas and a large number of sites over long periods where a prohibitively large number of grab samples may be needed. Lastly, passive sampling has the potential to provide continuous time-weighted averaged (TWA) concentrations that integrate fluctuations or spikes in concentrations. The overall aim of this research is to develop sensitive passive sampling methods to quantify a wide range of current and emerging PFASs in aquatic systems. We will explore PFAS uptake under various environmental conditions to refine sampling parameters and develop kinetic models to predict novel PFAS sorption and behaviour under site-specific conditions. The passive sampler will be optimised under realistic conditions in contaminated surfaces, groundwater, and wastewater.


Standardised operating procedures and guidelines will be developed for the passive sampler preparation, deployment, extraction and data interpretation. An easy-to-use Excel-based model will allow input of site-specific parameters, sampler configuration and PFAS properties to obtain water concentration estimates. These resources will be publicly available and disseminated to relevant stakeholders.

Conference Abstracts

Mackie, R., Ghorbani Gorji, S., Hawker, D.W., Higgins, C., Bowels, K., Mueller, J., Kaserzon, S.L. Development of time-integrative passive sampling methodologies for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), FLUOROS Global 2021, Rhode Island USA, 3 - 7 October 2021.

Ghorbani Gorji, S.,Mackie, R., Hawker, D.W., Li, Y., Higgins, C., Bowels, K., Mueller, J., Thomas, K.V., Kaserzon, S.L. Sorption and desorption affinity of 45 per- and poly- fluorinated substances (PFASs) with 11 sorbent phases: implications for passive sampling, International Passive Sampling Workshop, Virtual, 4 - 5 November 2021.

Research Impact

We are currently collaborating with various government departments and consultancies where our samplers are being used to assist with PFAS site investigations. This work also furthers the development of the sampling technology by refining our models and improving the accuracy and performance across different aquatic systems.



Project members

Rachel Mackie

PhD Candidate

A/Prof Sarit Kaserzon

Co-Theme Leader, Environmental Health Risk Assessment

Prof Jochen Mueller

Theme Leader, Emerging Environmental Health Risks

Dr Sara Ghorbani Gorji

Research Fellow