1. Environmental-friendly dehairing formula. ARS researchers at Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania have developed an oxidative formula which readily removes hair from cattle hides leaving them clean and ready for a typical tanning process, and eliminates the use of sulfide in the tannery and from the waste stream. The formula that was developed can be adjusted for the type of hide to be processed (summer hides which have short hair and winter hides in which hair is much longer). The waste stream from this process, free of sulfide, can be mixed with an acidic waste. One major tannery, driven by pending environmental restrictions with respect to sulfide odor and the desire to reduce waste stream treatment and water consumption in their tannery operation, has entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA). The results of this research should demonstrate a benign dehairing alternative for the American tanning industry.
2. The collagen microfibril model, a tool for biomaterials scientists. Animal hides, a major byproduct of the meat industry, are a rich source of collagen, a fibrous, triple helical protein that self-associates in a staggered array with gap and overlap regions, to form a matrix of fibrils, fibers and fiber bundles, is uniquely suitable as a scaffold for biomaterial engineering. A major challenge for biomaterials is the stabilization of the collagen structure by means that are acceptable for the proposed end use. The bovine type I collagen microfibril model developed over several years by ARS researchers at Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania and recently updated, represents a slice through a five helix super coil containing gap and overlap regions as well as nonhelical telopeptides. This model can serve as a tool for predicting or visualizing the results of reactions intended to stabilize the matrix, insert an active agent, or otherwise modify collagen. It is expected to assist biomaterial engineers in designing new collagen based products.
3. An economical, eco-friendly and effective process to remove the adobe type bovine manure from hides. Successfully developed soaking formulations urgently needed to effectively clean raw hides for their storage, proper preservation and shipment abroad where they are processed to leather. ARS researchers at Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania stablished a MTA (Material Transfer Agreement) with an international company that supplied the enzymes that can attack the different components of adobe type manure, thus softening and removing it from the hide. When eco-friendly cleansing agents were added, including the enzymes, lowering the concentration of the major ingredients in manure removal formulation was made possible. In addition to avoidance of unwanted holes, the cheaper and more eco-friendly formulations did not adversely affect the leather products. In fact, the overall quality was improved, compared to the control leather that was treated traditionally. Because of food safety applications, the meat packing industry and stakeholders have expressed a desire to collaborate in terms of applications of the newly developed formulations on live cows or stunned animals immediately before its slaughter.
4. High performance leather fillers derived from gelatin recovered from tannery waste and modified with vegetable tannin. The production of leather from cattle hides generates significant amounts of inedible gelatin, and currently produced chrome-free leathers have less desirable subjective properties than chrome tanned leathers. ARS researchers at Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania modified gelatin with the vegetable tannin, tara, a gallotannin, extracted from the pods of the small tara tree (caesalpinia spinosa) to produce a product that could be used effectively as a filler in leather processing. Tara modified gelatin is almost colorless, an advantage in production of light colored leather; it also imparts light-fastness to leather. Conditions (pH, time, temperature and concentration) for modification of gelatin by tara were optimized to give products with unique physicochemical properties. Conditions (pH, time, temperature and concentration) for modification of the protein were studied and characterized; products with unique physicochemical properties resulted. Thus a byproduct (gelatin) from leather-making process, modified with a common polyphenolic tanning agent (tara), can be employed to make finishing products for the leather-making process.
5. Superior fibrous structure developed for constructing novel products from hides. Hides are the most valuable byproduct of the meat packing industry. The US is the world’s 3rd largest hide producing country and currently produces approximately 35 million cattle hides annually. Due to fierce competition in global markets, the American leather and hides industries’ survival will depend on implementing new technology for producing novel products with superior quality. ARS researchers at Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania have addressed these challenges by developing high performance products such as green composites and high efficiency air filters from hides, which are more profitable than traditional leather products. The technology has been developed to produce fibrous materials having superior mechanical properties and high degree of fiber separation between fine collagen fibers. The results of this research will lead to the production of high quality fibrous products such as high efficiency air filters and fiber reinforced green composites. Several domestic tanneries have shown their strong interest in this new technology.Taylor, M.M., Lee, J., Bumanlag, L.P., Brown, E.M., Hernandez Balada, E. 2011. Use of high molecular weight biopolymers to improve the properties of chrome-free leather. Journal of American Leather Chemists Association. 106(12):353-359.