Processors start to pony up for feather-based plastics


Processors from around the world are starting to take an interest in keratin resin, derived from poultry feathers. Less dense than polyolefins, with a modulus of about 3-5 GPa and stress-to-break of 200-500 MPa, the material, a thermoplastic and biodegradable, can be molded neat or blended with standard thermoplastics to create "green" compounds.

There have been attempts before to derive plastic from poultry feathers, but officials at Eastern Bioplastics (Mt. Crawford, VA), located in the largest poultry farming area of the U.S., believe they have a leg up on the competition. "Our advantage is that we've developed a continuous process, using less energy (than others) and keeping it nearly fully automated," from feathers coming in one end of the plant to pellets being bagged on the other, explained Sonny Meyerhoeffer, the company's founder and principal, in an interview with MPW. Feathers' quills and fibers contain keratin, a material that can be processed much like standard thermoplastics. Feathers are cleaned, chopped and extruded into strands that then are cut into granules. The granulate does not smell. Although naturally whitish/brown in color, the keratin can be colored easily, adds Meyerhoeffer....
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