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Q & A: Cow-Power!

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Most recent answer: 10/29/2012
Q:
How can cow manure be used to power a rollercoaster?
- Martina (age 14)
Etiwanda, Ca
A:
Martina -

I have to say that this is probably one of the most unusual questions that we’ve ever gotten, but here’s what I can tell you...

Throughout history, cow manure has been used for energy in a wide variety of contexts. One common way of using it is as a fertilizer to provide nutrients for plants to grow. Another is to burn it. Like wood, dried cow manure burns very well. The heat from the fire can then be used to cook things or even heat up steam for a steam engine. And with the power from a steam engine, you could run just about anything, up to and including a rollercoaster - just make sure to watch out for the smell!

-Tamara

(published on 10/22/2007)

Follow-Up #1: biomass digesters

Q:
Not really a follow-up question, but just an additional FYI: Using things like manure to make power is not just a centuries-old energy solution. They are called "biomass generators" or "biomass digesters" and are in (admittedly limited) use today. These days, the process involves using bacteria to break down the manure (or old corn husks or farm waste or whatever) to release methane, which is then burned (in a non-smelly way) to generate power. The Wikipedia page on "Anaerobic digestion" has a good summary. Just thought I'd send in my two cents.
- Bill (age 31)
Savoy, IL
A:
Thanks for the info, neighbor.

Mike W.

(published on 10/29/2012)

Follow-up on this answer.