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Burp-catching mask for gassy cows, designed to reduce methane emissions, wins Prince Charles prize

Business Insider US
Prince Charles looks at a wearable device for cattle to neutralise their methane emissions in real time created by design group Zelp.
Arthur Edwards/Pool via AP
  • Cows' burps produce a lot of methane which accelerates climate change.
  • A new face mask for cattle captures the burps and converts the methane into carbon dioxide and water vapor.
  • The design won the prestigious Terra Cart Design Lab competition and was praised by Prince Charles.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za

An innovative face mask for cows, designed to reduce methane emissions and slow down climate change, has won a prestigious design award.

The wearable device for cattle, created by UK-based design group Zelp, was one of the four winners of the inaugural Terra Cart Design Lab competition. 

Prince Charles, who launched the competition as part of his Sustainable Markets Initiative, hailed the ground-breaking design as "fascinating" at an awards ceremony in London on Wednesday, The Telegraph reported.

Zelp's methane-reducing cow muzzle.
ZELP

The design, a smart harness for cows, converts methane into carbon dioxide and water vapor. 

Cows expel significant quantities of methane, an odorless greenhouse gas, which is more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Achieving significant reductions in methane emissions would have a rapid effect on slowing down climate change, per the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

A single dairy cow can produce up to 130 gallons of methane per day. And their burps account for 95% of a cow's methane emissions. There are approximately one billion cattle worldwide.

Cows and other farm animals produce about 14% of human-induced climate emissions.

In the past, solutions to the cattle industry's methane problem have involved changing cows' diets. Scientists proposed the mass production of a puffy, pink seaweed to combat climate change, Insider reported in 2019.

But Zelp's solution allows cows to digest typical food, with the mask working to detect, capture, and oxidize the methane in the cow's burps.

A sensor at the tip of the masks detects when a cow exhales and the percentage of methane expelled, WIRED reported. The mask sets the oxidation mechanism into action when methane levels are too high.

The mask also collects data on the animals to improve efficiency and animal welfare on farms, Zelp co-founder Francisco Norris told Insider.

"The Terra Carta will play a key role in helping us tackle the final design optimizations before we can produce our technology at scale, and we are confident that through the network that this initiative provides, we will be able to really advance our technology and to unlock its true potential," Norris said.

Zelp received £50,000 (about R993,000) in funding as part of the prize to help further develop the idea.

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