Agricultural Research Service scientists developed a process to improve the strength and stiffness of commodity plastics by incorporating keratin, derived from poultry feather waste. A need exists for tough, durable, lightweight materials for automobile parts and construction materials. Materials developed from an agricultural source are sustainable, while materials developed from petroleum processing are not. Poultry feather waste is currently disposed of at a loss to poultry producers. Finding a profitable use for poultry feather keratin would be highly advantageous.
Commodity thermoplastic polymers (polyethylene and polypropylene) are the most popular plastics because they have a wide range of properties, and can be recycled. For more demanding applications, higher performing materials known as “additives’” are usually incorporated into polyethylene and polypropylene to create plastic composites. While additives enhance some properties, they can be detrimental to other properties, like unit weight. Additional cost increases occur when using certain additives because they need to be made chemically compatible with the polymers. Feather keratin is chemically compatible with plastics, has high strength and stiffness relative to weight, and is readily available. Unlike current additives, the keratin additive is not expected to contribute to wear of the plastics processing equipment. Keratin material is thermally stable at typical plastic processing temperatures; therefore, it is a direct substitute for currently used additives using the same processing conditions. Poultry feather keratin has a density 2 to 3 times lower than currently available additives, and is cost competitive with these additives on a volume basis.
Please refer to patent application S.N. 11/249,794 (Docket #0002.06), “Polymer Composites Containing Keratin,” which was filed on October 13, 2005, and is a continuation-in-part of patent application S.N. 10/750,464 (Docket #0066.03), “Polymer Composites Containing Keratin,” which was filed on December 31, 2003. Foreign rights are not available.
Justin R. Barone
Environmental Quality Laboratory
Beltsville, MD 20705
(301)504-5905 / Fax: (301)504-5992
Walter F. Schmidt
(Same as first inventor)
(301)504-6765 / Fax: (301)504-5922