Researchers Find Inspiration From Sea Creatures

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have come up with a way to make better use of all the water required for hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking. They've come up with a new way to filter water that was inspired by sea creatures.


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Texas has been having a new energy boom, thanks in large part to fracking.

The technique uses massive amounts of water, chemicals and sand to fracture the rock deep underground, freeing the oil or natural gas within.

The problem is, we don’t have a lot of water to spare.

That’s where this better way to filter the water comes in.

Research at U.T. Austin has found a way to make a coating that when put on the water filters, keeps more oil out of the wastewater, so that more of the water can be reused.

Dr. Dan Miller is one of the researchers. 

“The oil that is in this wastewater naturally sticks very strongly to the kinds of materials that these membrane filters are typically made of, so what we’ve done is we’ve coated the membranes with a material that is attractive to water, so it attracts water to the membrane surface instead of the oil droplets.”    

And that keeps the oil from sticking to the filter and clogging it up.

The coating is based on the naturally-produced glue that makes creatures like barnacles stick to ships under water.

A local company called Advanced Hydro is paying the University for the right to commercialize the technology, getting it out in the field for more efficient use of water in this growing form of energy production.

This story is from KUT in Austin. 

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