In the past few years, earthquakes in Oklahoma have been on the mysterious rise—the state has had more earthquakes than even California. Why? One big fat finger has been pointed at fracking, in which toxic wastewater is injected into wells that can leak and lubricate faults. We clearly need a better solution for this wastewater, and that solution may involve satellite dishes.
Epiphany Solar Water Systems in Pennsylvania has taken three ordinary 8-foot satellite dishes and covered them in a shiny reflective coating. If you're thinking these silvery contraptions look like solar dishes, you're exactly right. They harvest solar energy that is used to heat up wastewater. The water that evaporates off is pure—it's essentially been distilled—and you're left with a bunch of solid salts instead of toxic brine.
The company's devices are currently being tested in the field by three gas companies, reports Allegheny Front. Interestingly enough, Epiphany's founder had originally conceived of the device to purify drinking water in developing countries. Then fracking, an industry with deeper pockets, came along.
To be sure, there are still plenty of challenges to making frack water treatment solutions commercially viable. Allegheny Front's radio story hits on a few other strategies for the difficult task of purifying salty wastewater that is four of five times saltier than the sea. It's certainly a noble use for the humble satellite dish, maybe even more use than becoming a Captain America shield. [Living on Earth/Allegheny Front]
Top image via Epiphany