From Farm Wastes to Fabrics

It turns out that chicken feathers aren't just a good material for circuit boards; they may also turn up on the runways in Milan and New York in a few years. Scientists Yiqi Yang and Narendra Reddy of the University of Nebraska presented their research on turning agricultural wastes such as chicken feathers and rice straw into fabrics at this week's meeting of the American Chemical Society:

"We hope that the research reported here will stimulate interest in using agricultural byproducts as textile fibers, which would add value to agricultural crops and also make the fiber industry more sustainable," says [Yang]...

With millions of tons of chicken feathers and rice straw available worldwide each year, these agricultural wastes represent an abundant, cheap and renewable alternative to petroleum-based synthetic fibers, Yang says. And unlike petroleum-based fibers, these agro-fibers are biodegradable. The development could be a boon to the nation's rice and chicken farmers, Yang says. ...

Chicken feathers and rice straw also could become "green" fabrics used in carpets, automobiles, building materials and a host of other everyday applications — all at potentially less cost and with novel and sometimes superior properties than their synthetic counterparts, the researchers say.

After processing, the chicken feather fabric resembles wool (both contain high levels of the protein keratin), and rice straw transforms into a material similar to linen or cotton. While both fabrics are in early development, we hope that, in the near future, we have reason to say "How lovely! That must be chicken feathers..." ::Newswise via The Worsted Witch

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