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Research Project: Improving the Quality of Animal Hides, Reducing Environmental Impacts of Hide Production, and Developing Value-Added Products from Wool


Project Number: 8072-41440-024-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: May 4, 2015
End Date: Feb 18, 2020

1: Enable new commercial methods to reduce or eliminate manure contamination of hides prior to hide removal, and one or more process models will be developed to estimate the expected costs for new technologies so enabled. 2: Enable new commercial methods for curing hides and skins and that reduce salt usage, and one or more models will be developed to estimate the expected costs for new technologies so enabled. 3: Enable new commercial methods to characterize hide quality in the raw state, and one or more models will be developed to estimate the expected costs for new technologies so enabled. 4: Enable new commercial products from Keratin extracted from wool.

The cleaning of bovine hides to remove manure balls and other organic contaminants will be enhanced by incorporating a combination of enzymes, glycerol, and sanitizing agents into the traditional cleansing solution ingredients. The efficiency of manure cleansing will be assessed by monitoring the bacterial count before and after the hide washings. Low salt hide preservation will be developed by using the combination of dehydrating agent, biocide, glycerol, and sanitizing agents with a fraction of the amount of salt used in traditional hide preservation. For improved efficiency and extended bovine hide preservation, the addition of various polyethylene glycol (PEG) fractions will be evaluated with the treatments of glycerol, biocides, and sanitizing agents. Nondestructive evaluation technology will be developed for the characterization of hide quality by incorporating airborne ultrasonic (AU) technology. The through transmission mode will be applied so that more useful information can be extracted from the AU scan, particularly for hides, which are covered by hair. The amplitudes of the transmitted airborne signals at every point on the hide surface were measured, color-coded, and mapped into an image file for each hide or leather. The correlation between AU data and physical properties of hides will be examined and statistical software will be used to establish the regression equation that enables one to predict the quality of hides using AU testing. Keratin will be extracted from coarse, low grade, unmarketable wool, by environmentally benign and economical methods, functionally modified by chemo-enzymatic methods, and applied to domestic wool, yarn, or fabric, to improve its properties. Conditions for chemical and enzymatic modification of wool will be optimized at the bench scale first, then scaled up. Intact wool will be modified chemo-enzymatically to add functional groups or functionalized keratin, and evaluated for improved properties, such as softness, comfort, resistance to shrinkage or improved water repellency. Promising research begun under a previous project, that demonstrated the ability of transglutaminase to catalyze the attachment of O-phosphorylethanolamine, potentially a flame retardant, to keratin and other proteins will be adapted for the surface derivatization of wool fabric, with the aim of imparting flame resistance. Economic assessment will be performed for all objectives every 12 months to evaluate the progress toward targets with adjustment along the way as necessary. After the process model is developed with equipment sizing and unit operations, capital and operating costs are then estimated using cost analysis software.