The project was organized in 4 parts:
- Developing methods to extract keratin from feather meal,
- Evaluating the best processing of extracted keratin and feather meal to produce injected molded parts and extruded films,
- A preliminary consumer acceptance evaluation on the use of feathers as materials for packaging,
- A preliminary sustainability assessment.
The use of feather meal being selected as a pathogen free feedstock of keratin posed several challenges. It was found that the processing of feathers into feather meal at elevated temperatures partially cross-linked the lipids and keratin as well as hydrolyzed components. Accordingly, it was difficult to extract pure keratin or process feather meal directly using conditions established in the art.
Nevertheless, feather meal can be used as a filler in combination with bio-based polyesters making very hard but brittle injection molded parts. The extracted keratin can be processed into a film but still contains cross-linked residuals (brown color and offensive odor).
The consumer study based on an on-line questionnaire addressing a diverse group of respondents indicated that there was no a priory concern raised towards the use of biomass form chicken feather for packaging applications. The preliminary life cycle assessment indicated that the extraction using solvents is not recommendable and that the overall environmental impact is positive provided the processing is optimized (solvent free approach or water based) and scaled.