Submitted to: BARC Poster Day
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: April 3, 2003
Publication Date: April 29, 2003
Citation: Barone, J.R., Schmidt, W.F. 2003. Understanding the behavior of keratin fiber derived from chicken feathers: exploitation of intrinsic properties for new technologies [abstract]. BARC Poster Day. April 2003.
Research at the USDA has resulted in a process to clean and fraction chicken feathers into a usable source of keratin fiber. Until the development of this process, the feathers were a serious waste problem for the poultry industry. This poster details the unique intrinsic structure and properties of the keratin fiber and how to exploit the structure and properties for various applications. The repeatable size of the keratin fibers and known free volume can be used to store and release small compounds. The hierarchical arrangement of the chemical structure, which gives keratin its properties, can be disrupted so the keratin can be processed into different shapes and the hierarchy re-formed to get the original properties back. Keratin fiber intrinsically has a high surface activity because of the hydrophilic and hydrophobic moieties in the chemical structure. This high surface activity can be exploited to get very well dispersed suspensions of keratin. Finally, the stiffness of the keratin structure is exploited to make multi-phase materials known as "composites" that have interesting properties compared to single phase materials. In addition to the inherent superior properties of keratin over other materials, the keratin fiber comes from a biologically-derived renewable resource.