Chicken feathers could one day constitute a perfect bioplastic resource, with biodegradable properties and zero carbon emissions. Feathers had been used for hydrogen storage before, but only experimentally. They had also been used for bioplastics, but with limited success – so far.
Over three billion pounds of chicken feathers are generated in the US alone, annually. They are usually transformed into low-grade animal feed or discarded, but Dr. Yiqi Yang, from the Institute of Agriculture & Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has discovered how to create feather-based bioplastics that overcome the issues that the old versions had.
More precisely, past experiments created feather-based bioplastics that were not resistant to water. Yang processed the feathers, containing keratin (just like your hair and nails), with polymerizing chemicals like methyl acrylate. The chemicals made the plastic molecules create long chains. They named their invention “feather-g-poly” plastic.
Thermoplastics, the kind of plastics used in making tubes that shrink at a certain temperature, are also made from keratin. Just like thermoplastics, the feather-g-poly plastics will be fully reusable, and will resist to water, unlike their older experimental siblings.