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The Search for Alternatives To “Forever Chemicals” Is Heating Up. Science-Based AI Can Help.

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July 31, 2023
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PFASs (per/polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a class of synthetic chemicals that have been widely used in chemical and materials product development since the 1950s. They provide water, oil, and heat resistance to products such as carpets, fire retardants, cosmetics, food packaging, and cookware. However, these “forever chemicals” are not biodegradable and will accumulate in food supplies, water sources, and even within humans and animals. In fact, because of the widespread use of PFAS over the past 75 years, researchers estimate that almost everyone on Earth has PFAS in their bodies. And although we are still coming to understand the short and long-term health impacts of PFAS compounds (there are over 12,000 types of PFAS), researchers are showing convincing evidence that PFAS exposure can be linked to endocrine, developmental, metabolic, and immune system disruptions in humans and animals.

Since the early 2000s, this class of compounds has been increasingly regulated resulting in companies voluntarily phasing out the use of certain PFAS compounds. However, a new set of PFAS-directed regulations in California is bringing more attention to the search for safer and more sustainable PFAS alternatives. Specifically, these regulations aim to limit, if not ban, the use of PFAS in food packaging, cookware, popular children’s items, and textiles. But these new laws go beyond the use of PFAS in manufacturing new products; they will also impact the ability of companies that use PFAS to meet their corporate sustainability goals. Specifically, SB 343 prohibits products containing PFAS in amounts of 100 ppm or higher from being labeled as recyclable as of Jan. 1, 2024.

It has never been more necessary for companies to find alternative formulations that meet safety and sustainability requirements. In this article we share:

  • Why replacing PFAS is a complex problem that needs a more precise, efficient scientific approach than current trial-and-error methods can achieve
  • How Science-Based AI can accelerate the search for PFAS alternatives for chemical product development teams

The Complexity of Replacing PFAS

Chemical and material companies using PFAS in their products face a dilemma. On one hand, you want to provide your customers with high-quality products that have water, oil, and heat resistance. On the other hand, you want to comply with the strict regulations and standards that are being imposed on PFAS by governments and consumers. You also want to protect your reputation and brand image by avoiding the negative impacts of PFAS on human health and the environment.

But finding safe and sustainable alternatives for PFAS is not an easy task. These compounds have a chain of strongly bonded carbon and fluorine atoms which resist degradation by heat, water, and other chemicals. In addition, they also have a hydrophobic (water-repelling) and oleophobic (oil-repelling) tail and a hydrophilic (water-attracting) head, which give them surfactant properties that enables lower liquid surface tension and the ability to form films or foams. For these reasons, efforts to synthesize or explore viable replacements for PFAS require searching through a vast space of possible chemical formulations or combinations, evaluating their performance and quality in different scenarios and applications, and testing their safety and environmental impact. In some cases, replacing PFAS requires finding reliable and consistent sources of non-chemical alternatives  that can meet your customers’ expectations while also complying with the evolving regulations and standards of different markets and regions. 

At NobleAI, we understand the challenges and complexities of replacing PFAS. That’s why we have developed a new approach to scientific discovery that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to accelerate the development of better performing, more environmentally sustainable, and reliably sourced chemical & material products. Our unique approach to Science-Based AI can help your team find effective and safe replacements for PFAS faster and easier than ever before.

How It Works: Using Science-Based AI to Find Effective Replacements 

At NobleAI, we are committed to helping our customers navigate this complex task. Our teams partner with your scientists to understand the physical and chemical specifics of their research problem–like replacing the non-stick coating on a frying pan–and then train our Science-Infused Machine Learning Models (SIMLs) with the relevant scientific knowledge, understanding of physical systems, and relevant data sets. Housed on our cloud-native software platform, the NobleAI Reactor Platform, SIMLs allow product development teams to explore and optimize different alternatives and generate optimized experimental plans to efficiently and effectively validate new materials in target applications. 

  1. Using SIML models to find effective replacements: SIML models can help teams explore the vast space of possible chemical formulations or combinations that could replace PFAS without sacrificing performance or quality. SIML models can also help you evaluate the trade-offs between different alternatives in terms of cost, availability, safety, or environmental impact.
  • Using SIML models to support a sustainable, reliable supply of non-chemical replacements: SIML models can also help you optimize your sourcing strategies for non-chemical alternatives by predicting how different factors such as weather, demand, or transportation could affect their availability or quality. SIML models can also help you identify potential risks or opportunities for improving the sustainability or efficiency of your supply chains.

As the demand for safe and sustainable products grows, so does the pressure to phase out PFAS from your product development portfolio. But you don’t have to face this challenge alone. With Science-Based AI, product development teams can economize the search for effective and safe alternatives for “forever chemicals” that meet your customers’ and regulators’ expectations and needs. 

Don’t let the new regulations around PFAS hold you back from achieving your product development and sustainability goals. Let us show you how Science-Based AI and the NobleAI Reactor Platform can help you overcome the complexity of replacing PFAS and deliver market-leading, PFAS-free products. 

Schedule a free demo or consultation with us today and get ready to transform your product development process with Science-Based AI.