What do aliens, ghosts, and cow manure all have in common? Apparently, they’re all something to be shot with plasma. Yes, in an unconventional bid to tackle the ever-developing climate crisis, scientists have been shooting cow poop with plasma beams. The aim? To strip the matter of its most damaging components – namely ammonia and methane.
The unusual experiment is unfolding on a picturesque farm in Buckinghamshire, UK, where cow dung is in no short supply. Using ”artificial lightning” made of a plasma bolt – a super-heated stream of atoms capable of shattering molecules – scientists got to shooting the sh!t to see if it could break up the poop’s contents.
Analyses of the feces revealed that the plasma poop treatment was successful, obliterating ammonia and breaking it down into pure nitrogen. This is an added win for the farmers, who use nitrogen as a fertilizer. By blasting the poop into the next dimension, they in turn create a highly fertile slurry that can be used right there on the farm. According to a report from the BBC, the treatment is so effective it’s able to zap 90 percent of the ammonia into nitrogen.
As for methane, artificial lightning got rid of 99 percent. This is a huge win for cow farming from an environmental perspective, as traditional practices which see the manure mounting up have been identified as a significant contributor to global emissions. Methane has a direct effect of warming on the Earth, something we certainly don’t need any more of right now.
Ammonia toxic, so blasting it to smithereens is good for the environment and will rid the countryside of that characteristic stank that lingers around farming communities. These ammonia clouds also present a potential threat to cities – should they drift into busy urban environments, they can react with other air pollutants, creating toxic combinations that can have serious health implications.
While the results of the tests in the UK have been positive, the technology isn’t without its limitations. In an ideal world, the tech would be rolled out globally, but its practicality in terms of affordability has yet to be determined.
The plasma poop treatment comes at a time of rediscovery and innovation for cattle farming, as it was announced recently that elsewhere cows had been successfully taught to use a toilet. By gathering all the cow poo-poo and pee-pee into a convenient latrine, the approach hopes to secure waterways that can become contaminated when you have too many animals gathered in one spot, as is the case in a lot of cattle farming settings.
Plasma bolts and cows on the loo? Farm trips just got a lot more exciting.