Worldwide poultry consumption has generated a huge amount of feather “waste” annually. Currently, the feather has a low value-being used for animal feed in the world.
The quality of fibrous air filters depend on their main component, fibers. The main physical structure of chicken feathers is barbs which can be used directly as fibers. They have small diameter, which makes them a good choice for air filtration.
The main chemical structure of chicken feathers is structural fibrous protein, keratin. Therefore, chicken feathers could potentially be used for protein fiber production.
To obtain chicken feather fibers, barbs were stripped from the quills by a stripping device and separated with a blender. Some feather fibers were entangled with polyester staple fibers, and needlepunched to form a nonwoven fabric. Some feather fibers were blended with CelBond™ bi-component polyester as binder fibers, and pressed between two hot plates to produce thermobonded nonwovens. Whole chicken feathers were ground into powder and their keratin was reduced in water. The reduced keratin was salt precipitated, dried and dissolved in ionic liquid with/without bleach cotton. The reduced chicken feather keratin ionic liquid solutions were spun into regenerated fibers through dry-jet wet spinning.
The needlepunched and thermobonded nonwovens were tested for filtration and other properties. With an increase of areal density and feather fiber composition, the air permeability of the needlepunched nonwovens decreased, and their filtration efficiency and pressure drop both increased. The case can be made that feather fibers gave fabrics better filtration at the same fabric weight, but at the expense of air permeability and pressure drop. The scrim and needlepunching process improved the filtration efficiency. Their strength depended on scrim. The hot-press process was very simple. The thermobonded nonwovens had very high air permeability. In them, there was also an inverse relation between air permeability and either pressure drop or filtration efficiency.
From these kinds of nonwovens, it is realized that feather fibers’ fineness and the tree/fan-like structure of the feather does not offer a high level of performance advantages over conventional fibers. The use of feather fiber in air filtration applications must rely primarily on a favorable cost and weight differential in favor of the feather fiber.
Only after chicken feather keratin was reduced, could it dissolve well in ionic liquid. 100% chicken feather keratin did not produce high tenacity fibers. Reduced chicken feather keratin and cellulose produced blend fibers with mechanical properties close to silk, cotton, and polyester fibers. Chemically reforming crosslinks might improve mechanical properties and the stability of the fibers to water and make them suitable for most fibrous applications. From this, it can be proposed that using chicken feathers for fiber production may be a good way to add value to chicken feather “waste”.