Methane is a renewable gas — a form of energy that is constantly being created by various mammals the world over. Four-stomached creatures such as cows are one of the main sources of biologically-derived methane. In fact, they create so much gas, research has shown all the ‘burner’ type stoves and ovens in North America could be powered by it. Trouble is, it isn’t all that capture-able from the source, or hundreds of millions of sources.
Humans too generate copius amounts, in what remarkably could be called both point and non-point sources. The points of issuance are many, but in total present a sort of network of constant generation. This field is global — wherever there are off-gassing humans (and cows, goats, etc.). Furthermore, some nations are gassier than others, depending on the
local cuisine and various customs, such as etiquette.
In an unincorporated area of the former Alsace-Lorraine, a pair of twin brothers named Norville and Wingate Smatterson have developed a small glider-like plane with a 40 HP gas-powered motor. It runs on methane or natural gas and the gas can be compressed. Compressing it allows more to be packed into a smallish cylinder on board the plane. Another advantage of using a non-liquid gas — it is much lighter than the petroleum-based version.
In their region, the number of cows outnumbers humans — as do the sheep — so, theoretically, the amount of methane that could be collected is huge. Unquestionably, it would be enough to fly an experimental aircraft for months at a time.
Norville explained, “That crux of the matter is simply devising a method of simultaneous, multiple source collection. It would be sort of like methane milking. We could set up methane dairies, of sorts, with groups of cows connected to tubes, and run the tubes to tanks. Of course, you need airtight valves and networks to successfully capture all the methane and then to store it under pressure and very carefully.”
The amount of methane that could be captured has been estimated to be enough to operate all the region’s vehicles, including school buses. The brothers Smatterson aren’t trying to develop a regional methane capturing infrastructure, saying they would leave that to government officials, because they seem to excel in such areas.
Two and half years ago, the twins got their methane glider to a point where each one could fly for about 15 minutes before they ran out of gas, because there wasn’t a way to replenish the fuel supply while in the air and they have a limited tank size. So, they hit upon the idea to hook themselves up to the fuel tank and see if they could add to it at the same rate the engine is using it. This way, they reason, they might be able to stay aloft for at least an hour.
“We don’t have reliable enough gas production at the moment — it really isn’t much more than a few blasts over several minutes, but with the right mixture of pre- and in-flight foods, we think we can optimize the gas flow. Politicians have no problem spewing in volume, so we believe there is no reason we can’t also,” elucidated Wingate.
There also may be methane enhancers or multipliers coming in the future based on research being conducted at the University of Elftirs in Brisbane. These chemicals could increase the power output of methane by at least ten times.
The brothers see commercial potential for their experimental aircraft, including longer passenger flights, with passenger participation in methane generation while en route.
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