Irene Mulloy Manning Receives 2022 Impact Award



Irene Mulloy Manning, doctoral candidate in chemistry

January 31, 2022 | By The Graduate School

Each year, The Graduate School honors graduate students in programs throughout our University for their powerful discoveries that contribute to a better future for people and communities in North Carolina. Irene Mulloy Manning is a recipient of 1 of 11 Impact Awards for 2022 — below includes her own descriptions of the research project.

“The Cape Fear watershed region is home to more than two million North Carolinians. Due to the prevalence of industry along the watershed, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), otherwise known as forever chemicals, now contaminate the watershed. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a health advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) of exposure to two PFAS known to cause adverse health effects. However, PFAS have been found at a total concentration of over 250 ppt in Pittsboro, North Carolina and 600 ppt in Fayetteville, North Carolina. A recent study of Wilmington, North Carolina residents’ blood serum found significant levels of PFAS in 99 percent of samples.

Motivated by the lack of a way to reduce the level of PFAS in the water, we’ve used chemistry to develop a technology that we call Ionic Fluorogels. These Ionic Fluorogels remove a variety of PFAS from water, including water collected at treatment plants in the Haw and Cape Fear watersheds. We designed Ionic Fluorogels to be easy to implement both at treatment plants and in the home. Furthermore, we designed Ionic Fluorogels by intentionally working with materials that do not exacerbate PFAS contamination or environmental concerns. Ionic Fluorogels demonstrate considerable promise in affecting quality of water, and we’re working to continue more pilot tests in our state.”