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Lasers battle cattle farts!

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It’s not exactly “cows with freakin’ lasers!”: the aptly-named Methane Research Cluster is to use lasers to measure the methane emissions from Australia’s vast herd of ruminants.

The University of Melbourne-led project wants to improve “measurement and management” of methane emissions, starting with grazing lands in the north of the country, which the group says could be responsible for as much as five percent of Australia’s annual greenhouse output.

As project leader Deli Chen says, “if you can’t measure, you can’t mitigate”. Rather than a search-and-destroy mission to punish offending cattle for their considerable methane load, the idea seems to be to fire lasers across a paddock at a reflector, and assess the light that comes back.

“The frequency of the laser is sensitive to the methane gases in the air,” Chen says in this story. That allows a simple measurement of the methane gases across the paddock.

The larger aim of the project, according to collaborator CSIRO’s Ed Charmley, is to identify techniques and technologies suitable for field measurement of cattle emissions. ®

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