Oct. 27 - Argentine researchers have demonstrated how methane can be separated from other digestive gases produced by cattle, to power a car. The scientists say that harnessing cow power on an industrial scale could create a new form of sustainable energy while also reducing the carbon footprint produced by cattle ranches. Elly Park reports.
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This car runs on natural gas.
Not the kind of natural gas that comes from deep underground…but the kind that can be found deep inside the stomach of your average cow.
Researchers from Argentina's National Institute of Agricultural Technology have found a new use for way to cash in on cattle.
Guillermo Berra says that the methane produced by the cow's digestive system is a highly combustible natural gas that, from other sources, is widely used for energy production.
He says there's no reason why cows could not be farmed as a new source of energy.
(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) RESEARCHER FROM ARGENTINA'S NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF AGRICULTURAL TECHNOLOGY (INTA), DOCTOR GUILLERMO BERRA:
"From the point of view of the (cow's) digestive system, we look at it as a biodigester. What is a biodigester? It is an enclosed container with two openings where a fermentation process takes place in which, because of the absence of oxygen, it is technically anaerobic. These bacteria produce, more than anything, two gases which are carbon dioxide and methane ."
Berra and his team extract the gases produced in the upper digestive chamber using a tube fed directly through the side of the cow.
They then separate the methane from other gases using a bicycle attached to a piston which pumps the gas through a purification system.
The result is this 95 percent pure methane gas which can be burned to power a car engine or anything else that runs on natural gas, says pneumatics specialist Diego Mena
(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) HIGH PRESSURE PNEUMATICS SPECIALIST, DIEGO MENA, SAYING:
"Methane is methane. It doesn't matter where it originates. Once it is purified you can use it."
And there's an environmental benefit as well. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. The researchers say 30 percent of Argentina's carbon emissions come from both ends of the nation's 51 million cows.
So by using their digestive gases as fuel, Berra and his team believe that they can help the environment while creating a new source of renewable energy…turning cattle into grass fed gas stations.
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