Phreatech in-situ biodegradation solutions

Combating PFAS in water

97% of people in the USA have PFAS in their blood [1]. These are perpetual compounds that can cause diseases as cancer, liver damage or birth defects. Phreatech has the solution.

What are PFAS?

Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), are a group of chemical components with quite particular characteristics. They are mainly composed of Carbon-Fluor bonds, which are one of the strongest bonds one can find in nature.
Because of this, it is hard to make them react. This is why, these products are used in non-sticking pans, food packaging, and fire fighting foam, among other products.

On the other side, these compounds stick forever, that is why they are known as forever chemicals. This means that if contamination is founded, it is almost impossible to degrade it.

PFAS in groundwater

PFAS have ended in our environment for multiple causes. They are released from their original objects because of their disposal on the ground, and degradation of the other compounds within them. A very well-known case in Denmark is the firefighting school where the whole site has been contaminated with PFAS due to their presence in the firefighting foam. These compounds have contaminated soil, reaching into the groundwater that we drink.

The toxicity of these compounds is so high that the danish regulations state that only 2 ng/L of water is the maximum concentration allowed. This means that only 1 drop of PFAS in an Olympic swimming pool will make it unsuitable for human consumption.

PFAS can cause severe problems even in low concentrations. These compounds accumulate in the body and can cause cancer, and liver damage, among other health problems. [2]

Our solution: In-situ biodegradation

The uniqueness of our solution is behind using biotech to remediate contaminated sites using genetically modified organisms (GMO) bacteria without applying GMO. Moreover, our product will be applied in-situ acting directly on the source of contamination and without the need of building external treatment plants. Last, our product will reduce the toxicity of PFAS both in soil and water.

The power of GMOs without GMOs.

The C-F bond is one of the strongest bonds in nature and is what the Biotech solution <attacks>. This technology does not exist in the market yet.

Bioremediation acknowledges the organic origin of the chemical compound. This is obtained from genetically modified bacteria in the lab, but only by injecting underground a controlled GMO-free substance that reacts with the contaminant.

When the compound is introduced into the soil, it not only cleans the water but also soil-bound contamination. This characteristic is also an added value that sets Phreatech among the best solutions nowadays.

In-situ treatment.

Most solutions available nowadays are on-site solutions. This means that water is pumped and treated in treatment plants installed on the contaminated sites. On-site solutions do not target the source of the contamination since they only remediate the water but not the soil. Moreover, they are expensive and time-consuming since new infrastructure needs to be built.

In Phreatch we offer an in-situ solution to be able to treat the contamination underground, where the problem is. Our solution not only remediates the water but also remediates the soil and the contaminated sites. The introduction of Biotech in the market presents a cheaper and faster solution. This is directly converted into fewer health problems for millions of persons.

Our solution targets saturated zones with high permeability. However, we also expect our solution to be easily scalable to different areas in the soil.

Toxicity Reduction

Most solutions available in the market are able to adsorb PFAS but not able to degrade them. This leads to secondary waste streams contaminated with PFAS.

Our biotech solution breaks PFAS compounds into smaller molecules being able to reduce the toxicity of these products both in ground and soil.

How does this work?

Our product consists of activated carbon and cell lysates from GMO bacteria.

Figure 1: Illustration of how Phreatech product is used.

As shown in Figure 1, the product will be injected into the ground where the site has been contaminated.

As shown in Figure 2, the activated carbon (AC) will adsorb the PFAS to their surface. During this process, PFAS are concentrated around the AC. This prevents the spread of PFAS and contains the problem.

AC as a remediation method has been widely used in the industry. However, our key value relies on the reaction.

Figure 2: Illustration of the physical and chemical reactions happening between PFAS and Phreatech product.

As seen in step 2, a reaction between the cell lysate, organic compounds, and the PFAS allows breaking long chains of PFAS into smaller molecules. These molecules are less toxic. By this reaction, the PFAS toxicity has showed to be reduced by 98% during lab tests [3]. Afterward, it is expected that these short-chain molecules get adsorbed by the AC.

Which is the reaction?

Our cell lysate will be cells from GMO bacteria that are able to produce horseradish peroxidase (HRP) and H2O2 in-situ. These compounds will react together with 4-Mequinol, which will be injected underground, and PFAS.

Figure 3: Reaction happening between Phreatech product and PFAS

This reaction, illustrated in Figure 3, breaks the PFAS molecule. The reaction was studied by Colosi Et. Al in 2009 and their lab results showed that PFAS toxicity was reduced by 98% [3].

The uniqueness of our solution is that HRP and H2O2 will be delivered in-situ by the cell lysates. Buying HRP in the market is an expensive solution. Being able to produce this product with our own GMO bacteria will make this bioremediation solution more affordable. However, the main challenge is that current regulation does not accept the injection of GMO products into the ground. In Phreatech we will use cell extracts of the GMO bacteria that do not contain nor transmit genetic DNA.

Phreatech is taking the first steps in proofing that no DNA can be found in the cell lysates of the GMO bacteria. The results were positive. Both the targeted PCR and the cell viability showed that no DNA can be transferred and there are no viable bacteria. This allows Phreatech to use the power of GMOs without applying GMO products into the soil.

Further research is needed to understand possible inactivation occurring in the presence of AC and the results of toxicity reduction that could be obtained with the reaction happening in ground conditions.

Business Model Canvas

Phreatech will provide the set up of the initial system for injection. This set up will be outsourced by contractors. Phreatech, will also provide it´s unique product which will be injected into the ground. Phreatech will be the one incharge of monitoring and injecting product as needed according to the rate of toxicity reduction.

Figure 4: Business Model Canvas of Phreatech

Future of Phreatech and bioremediation

In order to take this from idea to reality, research needs to be done. The first step consists of the R&D for developing the bacteria to be able to deliver the reactive needed for the reaction. In the second step, the compounds will be applied to the ground to evaluate the degradation of PFAS in real soil conditions. Research and testing are the key steps to be done to understand the efficiency of the solution in underground conditions.

Our team

From many different backgrounds, the team is composed of seven students from the Technical University of Denmark and an extern board director.

All committed to creating a better future for everyone, our complementary skills lead us to the creation of this solution that promises to help millions of people worldwide.

Contact us!

We are looking forward to the cooperation! Feel free to reach out to us:

Agustina Capello:

Agostina Casasco:

Andrea Verardo:

Garret William O´Connell:

Milo Carlo P Stocker:

Santiago Maldonado Hernández:

Tobias Sebastian Bernhardt:


[1] Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) (


[3] Colosi; Et. Al, 2009. Peroxidase-mediated degradation of perfluorooctanoic acid