A group of Australian researchers are working on another use for them, turning them into fiber that can be make into clothes and textiles. The project’ goal is to find a replacement for the 84 billion pounds of petrochemical-based synthetic fibers produced annually, and the team is focusing on protein fibers instead of plant-based cellulosic fibers.
One protein fiber is keratin, which is what chicken feathers are comprised of and is also a main component of wool. Chicken feathers are an ideal choice for the research since they are abundant, there is a guaranteed supply and they are of consistent quality.
According to researchers, currently the feathers are practically seen as waste, they are rendered down as a low value stock feed or in some places but the feathers have really good chemical and mechanical properties and are systematically produced in a reliable production pipeline, a huge benefit for any industry that wants to use them.
To make the fiber, the researchers wash and dry the feathers grind them up, dissolve them, make them into a keratin solution and then reform that solution as a fiber.
They also found that fiber isn’t strong enough and in order to make the material strong, they are producing film instead of fibers. A benefit to using keratin, they said, is that it can be processed on current textile equipment and dyed with existing dyes.
Using chicken feather instead of petrochemicals will reduce consumption of petrochemicals. Thus, this will help reduce environmental damage on a local and global scale.