The U.S. poultry industry produces more than 4 billion pounds of chicken feathers every year* – so finding a way to put all of this fluff to good use would not only benefit frustrated chicken farmers but the environment too. A recent study reported at an American Chemical Society meeting states that this “bio-waste” could possibly have a greater purpose. Since feathers are mostly made up of keratin, a strong and chemically stable protein, researchers believe that the tons of discarded plumes could possibly contribute to more durable and lighter plastics.

* This story might sound fake, but we promise we’re not foolin’!

The research presented by Yiqi Yang, a professor from the University of Nebraska, takes this concept a step further. Instead of using the chicken feathers as an additive to composites that are made largely of polymers, Yang and his team are using the chicken feather fibers as a principal ingredient making up 50% of the material. This feather friendly combo results in plastics that use less of the petroleum products polyethylene and polypropylene and are easier to break down and more sustainable.

In order to produce a mostly feather composite, Yang and his team combined the chemical known as methyl acrylate with processed chicken feathers which they then used to make thin films. The films seemed tougher when compared to other similar bio-waste composites.

All of this is good news in the world of bio-waste materials, but the real challenge (and the only way for this research to truly make an impact on the environment) comes when figuring out how to take this new process from the extremely small scale that Yang and his team worked on to mass production for the commercial market.

Via BBC News