Dr. Henderson McMullen, DO, MBA, gastroenterologist at Windy Way Hospital in Cleveland, OH looks to take advantage of the benefits in human intestinal gas. Doctor McMullen explains, “There are lots of chemicals in human intestinal gas or farts. There is nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, oxygen, methane, and sulfur. I am interested in the hydrogen and methane. Hydrogen can be recycled to fuel our cars. The methane can be used in labs to fuel bunsen burners. And repurposing the methane as cooking gas would be awesome!”
Doctor McMullen’s natural reaction was to shy away from farts. “I was brought up to think of the word “fart” as a four-letter word, and IT IS. But I get around the vulgarity by thinking of the acronym F.A.R.T. Flatulence Activation and Response Team,” says Dr. Mullen.
Doctor Mullen wants to make sure everyone in the world can recycle their intestinal gases. He envisions fart collection centers based around the busy parts of cities. F.A.R.T squads would be on call and activated to store farts, so high-energy fuels like hydrogen gas would be collected and available 24/7.
Dr. Mullen elaborates, “Farts are spontaneous. They want to come out. Unfortunately, a certain percentage of people want to hold them in. I work with a team of 20 scientists who have developed the fart-collecting machines with specialized software to detect when farts are present. The fart collectors select the components of interest. In this case hydrogen and methane. People should feel easy breezy about recycling farts and making our planet greener. I am definitely pro fart.”
Using intestinal gases for cooking food may rub a few noses the wrong way. But Dr. McMullen has the perfect response. “At the basic level, a fart is just gas. It’s made of atoms and molecules. We shouldn’t get hung up on where the recycled gas comes from.”
A recent study shows that Dr. McMullen’s idea has promise. Penelope Noble at the Institute of Flammable Gases says, “A recent study revealed that people are more comfortable using flammable gases close to home. What is closer to home than the gas from our own intestines?”
It seems that the gassy world of farts could light up new opportunities in laboratories and in our kitchens.