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Cow poo: the building material of the future?

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Researchers at Michigan State University think they have come up with a new way of disposing of some of the millions of tons of cow manure produced in the US each year: use it to build with.

More specifically, they are advocating using sterilised cow manure to replace sawdust in making fibreboard. This is a most useful construction material indeed, as anyone who has ever watched Changing Rooms will be able to attest. It finds its way into housing, flooring, shelving and furniture.

Farmers in the US are under pressure to find new ways of dealing with their cow pats. It can cost $200 per year to process the production of a single cow, so some farmers are facing a very big bill every year.

Part of the problem, according to Wired, is that speading manure on fields is attracting complaints from the locals. Presumably from the newly downshifted refugees from the cities, rather than real locals who must surely be unable to smell the stuff after years of exposure.

But intensive farming is making it more difficult as well, as farms can have more cow poo than they can possibly spread around on their relatively small landholdings.

Instead, cow dung is being processed in anaerobic digesters. The scientists propose using the solids from these digesters in place of the traditional sawdust. It would be mixed with resin, heated, and compressed in the same way. Tests of the finished product so far suggest a quality at least equal to that of board made with wood.

Charles Gould, a researcher at Michigan State's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, told Wired "It appears that the fibers interlock with each other better than wood. We end up with, I think, a superior material." ®

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