Because everyone farts.

As Japan, through the work of author Taro Gomi, has so succinctly reminded us, everybody poops. But you know what? Everybody farts too.

That said, nobody wants other people to know when they’ve just farted. Comedic value aside, the audio and olfactory aspects of fart are generally held to be offensive…but again, everyone farts, so what’s to be done about the situation?

That’s the question three studious, industrious Japanese teenagers are trying to answer. Kazunobu Fuse, Kazuhiro Saito, and Junichi Saito are all third-year students at Tokyo Gakugei University Senior High School, and they’ve pooled their young intellects and scientific passions for the purpose of developing underwear that cancels out both the sound and smell of farts. “We want to create underwear to free people from the stress of having to hold in their farts because there are other people around, and in turn damaging their physical health,” declares Fuse.

▼ Medical benefits of letting your intestinal gases flow freely aside, you still shouldn’t fart directly on your doctor.

The team first turned their attention to sound, and divided their efforts into two categories: sound insulation (i.e. the obstruction of the motion of sound waves) and sound absorption. Setting up an experiment where they placed a cell phone inside a sealed metal can and set off its alarm, they discovered that the sound waves would bounce in the sealed environment in such a way as to cancel each other out, and on the sound absorption front they found that adding in commercially available sound-absorbing softened the sound even further.

Moving on to smell, the team settled on utilizing porous activated carbon, the properties of which allow for chemical absorption. Placing activated carbon in a bag along with pungent ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, they found that the mass of the carbon would increase, proving that it would literally sucked up the odors.

With the materials sorted out, the three young researchers were ready to build their prototype, which they constructed out of a packet of activated charcoal, two plates of stainless steel, and two layers of sound-absorbing foam, all sewn into the fabric of a pair of underwear scaled to hold all those critical components, and oriented so that the materials are primarily orientated at the wearer’s butt.

▼ The prototype

Then they ripped five farts.

▼ We’re guessing their teachers didn’t insist on being in the lab to supervise this step.

Starting with the good news, the design essentially eliminates the odor of the fart completely, at least in the sense that the remaining scent is highly unlikely to reach anyone else’s nostrils. Farts passed while wearing the special underwear could only be smelled from, a distance of 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) or less, and if anyone’s nose is that close to your butt, they’re not in any position to be complaining about your etiquette.

The team also used a volume meter to measure the sound of the farts, checking them against a control set of farts performed while not wearing the special underwear, and found that their invention does indeed partially suppress the noise of flatulence. However, Fuse admits that “The results were imperfect…,” and so improving the sound-reduction effectiveness is going to be a focus for the team moving forward.

Something else they hope to enhance? Comfort. While the special underwear is great for reducing fart odors, and at least a modest success in making them less audible, wearing multiple metal plates around our hips isn’t exactly the height of soft, airy luxury.

Eventually, though, the team hopes to improve the design enough that their fart-cancelling underwear can be sold in stores. Considering that Japan already has fart-silencing seat cushions and smell-blocking underwear, it doesn’t seem like the teens’ dream of combining those functions into a single piece of clothing is too far off, and even if the sound-reduction isn’t perfected just yet, they’ve already created a solution for the 50-plus percent of Japanese people who say they occasionally pass gas silently.

Source: Kokosei Shimbun via Yahoo! Japan News via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he wonders if Fuse knows that his name is just one letter off from the Arabic word for fart.