Our Bureau

Chennai, March 17

IF any one thought that chicken feathers are mere waste, think again. That's because soon you could commercially have plastic derived from feathers of chicken.

Scientists of the Agricultural Research Service, an arm of the US Department of Agriculture, have developed a method to turn chicken feathers into plastic products.

Mr Walter Schmidt, a chemist with the research service, has developed a technology to clean feathers and separate them into chopped fibres and quill pieces.

He and his fellow ARS chemist, Mr Justin Barone, have developed and applied for a patent a process to convert cleaned and chopped feather material into plastic products on a laboratory scale.

According to Mr Barone, the material is made on traditional plastics processing equipment using chopped chicken feathers and other easily obtainable, naturally derived materials. The feather-derived plastic can be moulded just like any other plastic. It has properties similar to polyethylene and polypropylene.

This makes the feather-derived plastic a unique material for packaging or any other application where high strength and bio-degradability are desired.

Previous research by these chemists found feather fibre could be added into plastics to make composites. The fibres strengthen the plastic components and reduce the weight of the material.

Currently, the additives and fillers used in plastics by the automobile industry add significant weight to car parts. Using feather fibre is seen a viable alternative to these additives.

And this new technology could be an answer to vast kilograms of feathers generated every year as wastes in poultry production process.

This new application could enhance the commercial and economic value of feathers cost-effectively.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 18, 2005)
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