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A good use to chicken feathers

Updated on March 13, 2012

The poultry industry generates more than five million tons of chicken feathers every yearworldwide, a material that until now could not be used for other uses. A group of researchers from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) has been studied in the laboratory the potential for using feathers to manufacture composite materials that can be exploited in the industry.

The researchers aim to exploit the properties of thermal and acoustic insulationprovided by the keratin, a protein abundant in chicken feathers. To this end have developed a system of separation of the impurities accompanying the keratin andsearched optimum conditions for the manufacturing process of the biomaterial, whichconsist of a mixture of animal waste with a biodegradable plastic, polylactic acid. The new component could be used to develop industrial applications, for example in the automotive, construction and packaging.
The research project is part of COMPLUMAS and can givev a profitable solution to the large amount ofwaste generated daily in chicken slaughterhouses.

About keratine

Keratin (Greek κερατίνη, horn) is a fibrous protein structure, rich in sulfur, which is themain component of the outer layers of the epidermis of vertebrates and other organsderived from ectoderm, appendages such as hair, nails, feathers, horns and hoovesranfotecas.

There are two types of keratin differentiated by their structure and components

The alpha keratin present in their chains of amino acids residues (monomers) of cysteine, which form disulfide bridges.

Beta keratin no cysteine ​​nor, therefore, disulfide bridges.

alpha keratin

Disulfide bridges are those that provide hardness to the alpha-keratin. Thus, there is a greater amount of alpha keratin on the horns of an animal and nails in her hair. In additionthe alpha keratin is only found in hair, horns, nails, and other appendages.
beta keratin

Beta-type keratin

is inextensible (unlike the keratin type alpha) and can be found, for example, in the spider web.


Keratin is a protein with a secondary structure, ie, the primary structure of the protein is folded upon itself, acquiring three dimensions. This new form is a spiral, calling and α-helix protein. This structure is maintained so that a characteristic due to hydrogen bonding and hydrophobic forces, which hold the amino acids of said poroteína. All this together gives that special protein characteristic hardness.


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