Environmental fate of the next generation refrigerant 2,3,3,3-tetrafluoropropene (HFO-1234yf)

Environ Sci Technol. 2014 Nov 18;48(22):13181-7. doi: 10.1021/es5032147. Epub 2014 Oct 31.


The hydrofluoroolefin 2,3,3,3-tetrafluoropropene (HFO-1234yf) has been introduced to replace 1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane (HFC-134a) as refrigerant in mobile, including vehicle, air conditioning systems because of its lower global warming potential. HFO-1234yf is volatile at ambient temperatures; however, high production volumes and widespread handling are expected to release this fluorocarbon into terrestrial and aquatic environments, including groundwater. Laboratory experiments explored HFO-1234yf degradation by (i) microbial processes under oxic and anoxic conditions, (ii) abiotic processes mediated by reactive mineral phases and zerovalent iron (Fe(0), ZVI), and (iii) cobalamin-catalyzed biomimetic transformation. These investigations demonstrated that HFO-1234yf was recalcitrant to microbial (co)metabolism and no transformation was observed in incubations with ZVI, makinawite (FeS), sulfate green rust (GR(SO4)), magnetite (Fe(3)O(4)), and manganese oxide (MnO2). Sequential reductive defluorination of HFO-1234yf to 3,3,3-trifluoropropene and 3,3-dichloropropene with concomitant stoichiometric release of fluoride occurred in incubations with reduced cobalamins (e.g., vitamin B12) indicating that biomolecules can transform HFO-1234yf at circumneutral pH and at ambient temperature. Taken together, these findings suggest that HFO-1234yf recalcitrance in aquifers should be expected; however, HFO-1234yf is not inert and a biomolecule may mediate reductive transformation in low redox environments, albeit at low rates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Fluorocarbons / analysis*
  • Halogenation
  • Iron / chemistry
  • Methane / analysis
  • Minerals / chemistry
  • Refrigeration*
  • Tetrachloroethylene / analysis
  • Trichloroethylene / analysis
  • Vitamin B 12 / analysis


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Minerals
  • Trichloroethylene
  • Iron
  • Methane
  • 2,3,3,3-tetrafluoropropene
  • Vitamin B 12
  • Tetrachloroethylene