Inspenet, December 12, 2023.
Cow dung as space fuel?
Japan could have inaugurated a new chapter in its space exploration by successfully testing a rocket engine powered exclusively by energy generated from cow dung.
In the test carried out last week, the engine generated a flame several meters long, projecting it horizontally through the door of a hangar on the northern island of Hokkaido. The liquid biomethane used for combustion was produced from cattle waste from two local dairy producers, explained Takahiro Inagawa, director of the Japanese company Interstellar Technologies .
“ We do this not only because it is good for the environment, but also because it can be produced locally, because it is very profitable and it is a fuel with very good performance and great purity ,” Inagawa assures AFP. “ We are the first private company to do so ,” he added.
Interstellar Technologies’ plans
It is important to mention that Interstellar hopes to launch satellites into space using this fuel. The company has established a collaboration with Air Water, a company specialized in the production of industrial gases; partnership that involves collaboration with local farmers who have equipment to convert manure into biogas .
“The raw material from the cows of this region has enormous potential. If the international situation changes, it is important for Japan to have an energy source like this“said Tomohiro Nishikawa, Air Water group engineer.
The biomethane produced by Air Water is currently used at a local dairy and other facilities, both for heating buildings and in pilot programs to power trucks and ships. In September, the Japanese space agency JAXA successfully launched its “Moon Sniper” lunar mission, although the Japanese aerospace sector has faced several challenges in recent years.
Likewise, biogas derived from cow dung has been used as fuel in other parts of the world, such as in the Indian city of Indore, where it is used to power buses. This approach contributes to the reduction of the considerable environmental footprint of livestock farming, which, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), represents 12% of greenhouse gas emissions related to human activity. Worldwide.
Although the burning of biogas releases greenhouse gases, it is important to highlight that this phenomenon also occurs in natural degradation processes. Excretions from livestock farms can contaminate soil and water bodies in a similar way.
Eiji Mizushita, 58 years old and with 900 head of cattle, generates more than 40 tons of manure daily. As part of this project, it has implemented an automated system that collects the waste of its animals, subjects it to fermentation and converts it into biogas, fertilizer and even sand for livestock.
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