| 9.1°C Dublin

Fart power: Cow flatulence 'could propel planes of the future'


Holstein Cow Grazing on a Hill

Holstein Cow Grazing on a Hill

Getty Images/Fuse

Holstein Cow Grazing on a Hill

Aeroplanes of the future could run on cow flatulence, with human body heat powering on-board electronics, according to a band of innovative students who were challenged by Airbus to come up with radical ideas for making flying more efficient.

Could you in future fly in a plane running on cow flatulence, while your luggage rests on a bed of air and 'shape-shifting' materials cut down the aircraft's noise?

Those are just some of the ideas drawn up by students from across the world, who were challenged by aircraft giant Airbus to come up with inventions for making flying more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Five teams of students got through to the final of the 'Fly Your Ideas' contest, with their innovative notions for harnessing passengers' body heat and using the principles of air hockey to shape aircraft technology.

Students from Australia came up with the idea of using cow flatulence to power aeroplanes. Liquefied methane would be used in specially-created refrigerated pods that sit next to the aeroplane's engines.

The team from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology believe this could slash carbon dioxide emissions by 97pc.

Students from Italy also came up with a plan for making planes more fuel efficient. They suggested that specially-shaped rechargeable batteries could be dropped into the cargo hold, helping to power efficient hybrid engines.

They believed that on a short haul flight this could save up to 60pc of fuel, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by up to 40pc.

Inspired by the principles of the game air hocky, students from Brazil came up with a way of ensuring passengers can collect their luggage more quickly. Under their plans, the cargo hold would be retro-fitted with super-light sliding sections to enable qorkers to quickly, easily and safely load and unload luggage.

Passengers could get their bags 30pc more quickly, according to the researchers.

While passengers are still on board the plane, researchers from Malaysia believe that excess body heat could be used as an alternative source of energy to power small electronics in the cabin.

Heat-sensitive material in the seats would capture energy from passengers, reducing the energy needs for the flight.

Students from India meanwhile suggested that noisy aircraft could be tackled by using shape-shifting materials to change airflow through the engine, reducing noise pollution.

Each team will now travel to the Airbus headquarters in Toulouse to compete for the €30,000 prize, which is run in collaboration with UNESCO.

Charles Champion, executive vice president for engineering at Airbus, said: “These future-focused and disruptive concepts prove that engineering isn’t just about technical skills – it’s about having an innovative mindset and a creative approach.

"But for our industry to succeed in making aviation carbon neutral by 2020, we need a constant source of fresh and inventive ideas from the innovators of today and those of tomorrow. Our future solutions are here right now – and through projects like ‘Fly Your Ideas’, we are helping them to become a reality for the future,” he added.

Both Mr Champion and Dr Lida Brito, director of science policy at UNESCO, flagged the need for more skilled workers who will drive the innovation of the future.

“If we can’t find ways to inspire a generation of engineers with varied skills, this is going to be a principle obstacle for growth in our slowly recovering global economy," said Dr Brito.