Chickens may start losing sleep over more than Americans’ love of McNuggets. Chicken consumption in the US creates over six billion pounds of feathers each year. Previously discarded as waste, researchers at the University of Delaware are developing an innovative way to put all that wasted plumage to use — as fuel to power hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. If this technology was implemented in a fuel cell vehicle, it would cost about $200, as opposed to using carbon nanotube tanks (which cost about $5.5 million) or metal hydrides (which cost about $30,000).

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Yesterday at 13th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference, a team of scientists announced that they developed a way to store hydrogen in carbonized chicken feathers. At present, the major hold-up with making cars powered by fuel cells, is that no one has come up with a way to inexpensively and effectively produce and store all that hydrogen. Researchers Erman Şenöz and Richard P. Wool found that when they heated up quill fibers to extremely high temperatures, carbon nanotubes with nanoporous walls formed, allowing the substances to absorb and store hydrogen.

While the development is certainly exciting, don’t expect to see cheap, hydrogen-powered vehicles rolling down the block anytime soon. The technology is nowhere near commercialization yet. Because of hydrogen’s extremely low density, cars using Şenöz and Wool’s system would need about a 75-gallon tank to go 300 miles, so researchers must first figure out how to optimize the technology. Still, cars equipped with high-tech gear that originated from mere chicken feathers is a seriously resourceful concept.

Via The Daily Green