Generations of kids around the world have grown up with tales that drinking milk will make them big and strong. Soon, milk retailers might be able to tap into another childhood dream, by linking the popular dairy product with space travel.
The amazing story of how Japan’s dairy cows might contribute to the space race started with a local problem. The northern island of Hokkaido had an issue with power supply, which constrained local farmers from ramping up operations. So, the farmers decided to find a novel solution.
One thing that’s plentiful on any dairy farm is manure. It might not be pretty, but the chemical properties of cow manure carry energy potential. The excrement can be partially converted into biogas, which naturally contains methane. This biogas has been used for micro power plants in farming communities, offering enough to fuel 50-300 kW-sized generators. But studies over the last year have shown that the manure could offer a better end-product: liquid biomethane (LBM). This fuel could be powerful enough to fire rockets.
Were the tale to end here, it might serve as an amusing anecdote. Except that one Japanese firm has committed to flying a rocket with LBM into space. It would be a world first, using fuel made from cow manure. Meanwhile, there are projects underway also to use LBM to replace fossil fuels in factories and for ships.
So, how did farmers, gas manufacturers and rocket scientists get on board in the same room? Japan NRG has the full story.