Cow-Fart Catching Backpacks Could Help Curb Global Warming

Photograph by Jim Richardson/National Geographic Society/Corbis

Cow-Fart Catching Backpacks Could Help Curb Global Warming

A new mobile innovation aims to capture bovine flatulence and convert it into energy.

By Todd Petty
Published: 04/22/2014

Argentinean scientists have got it in the bag.

All 80 gallons of it—the amount of methane produced by the average cow per day, which can be used to generate electricity, heat, and power for a refrigerator or a car engine.

Enteric fermentation, or the methane-producing conversion of food that takes place in the stomachs of certain animals, is the second leading cause of methane emissions in the United States, surpassed only by natural gas and petroleum.

The methane from cattle­— accounting for approximately 25 percent of all emissions—can be converted into a biofuel, a process that not only reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released into the environment, but also provides an alternative power source as well.

Scientists at Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology have designed a way to capture those emissions. The technicians designed a backpack system that directly connects a tube into the rumen, a large compartment of the bovine stomach, to extract filter the methane into a plastic bag.

According to the project coordinator, "the amount of collected gases varies by ingested food and the size of the specimen: an adult cow emits about 1,200 liters [370 gallons] per day, of which 250 to 300 [66 to 80] are methane.”

It may all sound ridiculous, but for once, this could be a bag of hot air worth paying attention to.

Author Profile

Todd Petty

Todd Petty is a reporter at Audubon Magazine.

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine