|May 27, 2004,
Sharon Durham (ARS): A technology developed by
Agricultural Research Service scientists to turn chicken
feathers into industrial fiber recently received a third-place
award at the "World's Best Technologies 2004"
conference in Arlington, Texas. The 400 conference participants
selected the ARS technology for the award from among 70
technologies displayed at the conference.
ARS research chemist Walter Schmidt and research polymer
scientist Justin Barone discovered that feathers can
be added to plastic used in car parts such as dashboards
to strengthen them while reducing their weight. Schmidt
and Barone, based at ARS' Environmental Quality Laboratory
in Beltsville, Md., also found that feather fiber can
be combined with wood pulp to make filter paper, decorative
paper and other products.
Processed chicken feather fiber, because of its super-fine
size and shape, may be used for filtration. Wood pulp
filters have a width of 10-20 microns, compared to 5
microns for filters made from feather fiber. That means
filters made from feather fibers will have a finer mesh,
resulting in smaller pores for trapping more minute
The feather-fiber technology has been patented and
licensed. Featherfiber Corp. of Nixa, Mo., has built
the first fully operational pilot plant to convert feathers
into feather fiber and keratin quill. Featherfiber is
marketing the fiber to be used in lightweight, sound-deadening
composite materials for use in office cubicles, cars
and sleeping compartments of tractor trailers.
A large-scale facility, now in the design phase, is
projected to be built by Featherfiber Corp. in either
southwest Missouri or Maryland's eastern shore. When
complete, the plant will produce about five tons of
feather fiber per hour, up from the pilot plant production
of 200 pounds per hour.
The "World's Best Technology 2004" awards
were sponsored by the Federal Laboratory Consortium
for Technology Transfer and the National Association
of Seed and Venture Funds.