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Uncategorized Chicken Feathers

Published on June 24th, 2009 | by Bryan Nelson

31

Hydrogen Fuel Tanks Made from Chicken Feathers Could Save $5.5 Million

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June 24th, 2009 by
 
Chicken Feathers

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Scientists have discovered a remarkable, unexpected and cheap way to store hydrogen fuel– using carbonized chicken feather fibers.

The problem of storing hydrogen as fuel has traditionally been a perplexing and expensive dilemma. For instance, a car with a 20-gallon hydrogen storage tank made from carbon nanotubes or metal hydrides– two of the best ideas so far– would add $5.5 million or $30k respectively to the price of that vehicle.

A storage tank made from carbonized chicken feathers, however, would only mark up the cost a measly $200. The green bio-material would also help solve the problem of how to dispose of the 2.7 billion kilograms of chicken feathers generated each year by commercial poultry operations.

One of the major reasons hydrogen-powered vehicles aren’t commonplace on our highways is the immensely difficult problem of how to store enough of the fuel on-board to give those vehicles a cruising range that approaches that of gasoline or diesel fuel. Storing sufficient quantities requires placing it under extreme pressure, which can add significant weight to the vehicle and increase the potential for a dangerous explosion.

That problem has led scientists to look toward structures like carbon nanotubes for a solution, since they can pack large quantities of hydrogen at normal pressure within a fairly small space. The catch is that manufacturing carbon nanotubes is very expensive and ultimately impractical.

Enter scientists at the University of Delaware, who while researching the potential of keratin derived from chicken feathers to improve the performance of microcircuits, unexpectedly discovered that by heating the keratin fibers they could strengthen its structure enough to compare to the strength of nanotubes. In other words, the hydrogen storage capacity of the strengthened keratin was essentially equivalent to that of carbon nanotubes, but using nothing more than chicken feathers as raw material.

In addition to hydrogen storage, the new method could turn chicken feather fibers into a number of other eco-products like hurricane resistant roofing, lightweight car parts, as well as the aforementioned bio-based computer circuit boards.

Furthermore, utilizing this technology would be recycling at its best. Previously, there has been no major use for all the feathers leftover from chickens in the poultry industry.

Image Credit: Just chaos on Flickr under a Creative Commons License

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About the Author

has been making up for lost time since finishing his graduate degree in Philosophy by traveling and working to change the world. He has worked with groups like The Sierra Club, Environment America & U.S. PIRG, Environment Oregon & OSPIRG, and Progressive Future on local and national political campaigns. His environmental journalism can be found throughout the web, which also includes regular contributions to MNN.com. Between adventure and activism, he currently can be found doing freelance writing from his home in Hawaii.



  • Adnum

    how could carbonized feathers be used for filtering air to collect odors?comments

  • Kilgore Trout

    Another wacko story to keep the peasants hoping.

  • Kilgore Trout

    Another wacko story to keep the peasants hoping.

  • Baking Chef

    god didn’t put chickens here for us to look at you guys needa accept the facts of life

  • Baking Chef

    god didn’t put chickens here for us to look at you guys needa accept the facts of life

  • Kenny Landis

    Thanks for the comments. After reading Shan’s post, I began to look at the life of a chicken. I realized they do have great lives. They eat tons of food. If my job were to eat tons of food, I’d be the happiest man alive….because I LOVE food. So, I would have to agree with everything everyone else said.

  • Kenny Landis

    Thanks for the comments. After reading Shan’s post, I began to look at the life of a chicken. I realized they do have great lives. They eat tons of food. If my job were to eat tons of food, I’d be the happiest man alive….because I LOVE food. So, I would have to agree with everything everyone else said.

  • Uncle B

    Down the yellow brick H2 road again eh! Algae based bio-diesel, and bio-gases from the abundant flows of sewage in America including the offal from factory farms can reduce our foreign oil consumption, as can converting to the fairly common and very serviceable turbo-bio diesel engines from Europe and Japan, but America has it’s head up its proverbial, and doesn’t change one damn bit! We will be dreaming the H2 dream, building McMansions, and driving SUV’s with “Elvis” bobble dolls on the dash long after Asia has opened up its Empire, replaced the sawbuck with the “Yuan” internationally, and converted us to a tolerable ‘Third World’ entity, an oddity among it’s Empire of nations, Americans, they will say, in 2050, a strange lot, still winning WWII in their movies, slaving a life-time to hear a gasoline V-8 engine rumble, driving archaic 2 cylinder 1930′s engined Harley Davidson motorcycles, wearing Stetson hats and cowboy boots and going to fight in the trenches somewhere in the world to justify their sexuality! The rest of the world will have moved on to the far superior notions of the biologies and sustainabilities, while Americans will still build Sherman tanks and worship Elvis and Michael Jackson in Hollywood temples to times gone by! Americans will be categorized with the eccentric British, who will never really get over their long defunct “Empire” and still try to burn coal in stoves in their kitchens for old times sake! Change is not easy for Americans, nor is flexibility, and the H2 fixation a norm for them, even in light of the ready algae-bio-diesel to diesel engine solution at hand and workable in every respect, but not adopted because ???

  • Uncle B

    Down the yellow brick H2 road again eh! Algae based bio-diesel, and bio-gases from the abundant flows of sewage in America including the offal from factory farms can reduce our foreign oil consumption, as can converting to the fairly common and very serviceable turbo-bio diesel engines from Europe and Japan, but America has it’s head up its proverbial, and doesn’t change one damn bit! We will be dreaming the H2 dream, building McMansions, and driving SUV’s with “Elvis” bobble dolls on the dash long after Asia has opened up its Empire, replaced the sawbuck with the “Yuan” internationally, and converted us to a tolerable ‘Third World’ entity, an oddity among it’s Empire of nations, Americans, they will say, in 2050, a strange lot, still winning WWII in their movies, slaving a life-time to hear a gasoline V-8 engine rumble, driving archaic 2 cylinder 1930′s engined Harley Davidson motorcycles, wearing Stetson hats and cowboy boots and going to fight in the trenches somewhere in the world to justify their sexuality! The rest of the world will have moved on to the far superior notions of the biologies and sustainabilities, while Americans will still build Sherman tanks and worship Elvis and Michael Jackson in Hollywood temples to times gone by! Americans will be categorized with the eccentric British, who will never really get over their long defunct “Empire” and still try to burn coal in stoves in their kitchens for old times sake! Change is not easy for Americans, nor is flexibility, and the H2 fixation a norm for them, even in light of the ready algae-bio-diesel to diesel engine solution at hand and workable in every respect, but not adopted because ???

  • Jon

    It sounds to me like they are basically extracting keratin from the feathers, making it into fibers and putting it through ovens, in the same process that carbon fiber is made. (In fact, I wonder if the author is confusing carbon nano-tubes with plain carbon fiber) I would be very skeptical as to whether the strength is what they say it is. My guess is that it must be more similar to carbon fiber (which is still a pretty neat find). My question is… why, if this wonder material is as cheap to make and as awesome as they say it is, is the writer focusing the entire article on how it can be used for hydrogen storage? It could be used for all kinds of things, much more beneficial than hydrogen storage. (how many people filled their cars with hydrogen this week?)

  • Jon

    It sounds to me like they are basically extracting keratin from the feathers, making it into fibers and putting it through ovens, in the same process that carbon fiber is made. (In fact, I wonder if the author is confusing carbon nano-tubes with plain carbon fiber) I would be very skeptical as to whether the strength is what they say it is. My guess is that it must be more similar to carbon fiber (which is still a pretty neat find). My question is… why, if this wonder material is as cheap to make and as awesome as they say it is, is the writer focusing the entire article on how it can be used for hydrogen storage? It could be used for all kinds of things, much more beneficial than hydrogen storage. (how many people filled their cars with hydrogen this week?)

  • antiPETA

    sweet. hopefully KFC prices won’t go up as demand for chicken parts increases. or maybe they will go down as the chicken killers (said with great appreciation) will get more money for more of their product. yes, chickens are product. or would you rather more CO2 enter the atmosphere by burning more fossil fuels there PETA?

    kudos and great idea. i hope it gets off the ground.

  • antiPETA

    sweet. hopefully KFC prices won’t go up as demand for chicken parts increases. or maybe they will go down as the chicken killers (said with great appreciation) will get more money for more of their product. yes, chickens are product. or would you rather more CO2 enter the atmosphere by burning more fossil fuels there PETA?

    kudos and great idea. i hope it gets off the ground.

  • Leigh

    Shan,

    The purpose of this technology is to use those billions of chicken feathers that are going to be generated any-ways in a constructive manner. In this consumer culture, their is no way that people are going to change their chicken-consumption habits in the name of bio-energy exchange and humane treatment of animals.

    I’m wondering how many car fuel tanks can be made from the availible 2.7 billion kg of feathers, and if feathers become a useful resource, will the price stay anywhere near $200 per tank?

  • Leigh

    Shan,

    The purpose of this technology is to use those billions of chicken feathers that are going to be generated any-ways in a constructive manner. In this consumer culture, their is no way that people are going to change their chicken-consumption habits in the name of bio-energy exchange and humane treatment of animals.

    I’m wondering how many car fuel tanks can be made from the availible 2.7 billion kg of feathers, and if feathers become a useful resource, will the price stay anywhere near $200 per tank?

  • BW

    I agree. Outstanding breakthrough. Please Shan! People will never stop eating chicken. It’s just the way of the world. If it’s gonna happen anyway, might as well save the earth in the process.

  • BW

    I agree. Outstanding breakthrough. Please Shan! People will never stop eating chicken. It’s just the way of the world. If it’s gonna happen anyway, might as well save the earth in the process.

  • http://chickenkiller.com ChickenKiller

    …lol i think this is GREAT, I mean we ARE killing chickens and have been killing them since…

    And NOW we are able to use the feathers for something… what have we done with the old feathers.

    lol crazy peta people.. we are supposed to eat eat meat get over it and eat some tasty chicken ;)

  • http://chickenkiller.com ChickenKiller

    …lol i think this is GREAT, I mean we ARE killing chickens and have been killing them since…

    And NOW we are able to use the feathers for something… what have we done with the old feathers.

    lol crazy peta people.. we are supposed to eat eat meat get over it and eat some tasty chicken ;)

  • Chris

    No we do not need to do that you moron. We don’t live in wooden houses and live off the “fat o’ the land” any more. The world has moved on. You need to rethink your diet, there’s nothing wrong with mine. There are many bigger issues than chickens in this world; in fact chickens live a fantastic live in comparison with some of the poorest Asian rice pickers that work more than 12 hours a day 7 days a week for less than you or I make in half an hour. This is an outstanding discovery. Little did I know I could have become rich from the bits that KFC forgot to take off. A tip for next time though, guys… tell everyone you meant to do it! :)

  • Chris

    No we do not need to do that you moron. We don’t live in wooden houses and live off the “fat o’ the land” any more. The world has moved on. You need to rethink your diet, there’s nothing wrong with mine. There are many bigger issues than chickens in this world; in fact chickens live a fantastic live in comparison with some of the poorest Asian rice pickers that work more than 12 hours a day 7 days a week for less than you or I make in half an hour. This is an outstanding discovery. Little did I know I could have become rich from the bits that KFC forgot to take off. A tip for next time though, guys… tell everyone you meant to do it! :)

  • Jake

    WOW!!! After reading Shan’s post, I would much rather have a chicken slowly torn apart limb by limb and eaten alive by some predator in the wild then having its head chopped off or neck broken by a food processor…sheesh.

    Bring on the “Carbonized Chicken Feather brake pads”…just think, hard use of the breaks will bring smell of the fried chicken out…

  • Jake

    WOW!!! After reading Shan’s post, I would much rather have a chicken slowly torn apart limb by limb and eaten alive by some predator in the wild then having its head chopped off or neck broken by a food processor…sheesh.

    Bring on the “Carbonized Chicken Feather brake pads”…just think, hard use of the breaks will bring smell of the fried chicken out…

    • Diggler

      too funny!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/joshua.connelly Joshua Connelly

    this is great,

    but lol its going to piss off PETA

    i say who cares, for every chicken they don’t eat i will eat two.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joshua.connelly Joshua Connelly

    this is great,

    but lol its going to piss off PETA

    i say who cares, for every chicken they don’t eat i will eat two.

  • shan

    I am not sure I see using chicken feathers as good news. In my opinion massive killing of chickens and industrialized food production is problematic, so we need to scale back and give chickens a decent life closer to that which they had in nature. We also need to rethink our diet, reduce the meat consumption and dismantle large, inhumane industrialized farming operations as opposed to find uses for such a huge number of chicken feathers.

  • shan

    I am not sure I see using chicken feathers as good news. In my opinion massive killing of chickens and industrialized food production is problematic, so we need to scale back and give chickens a decent life closer to that which they had in nature. We also need to rethink our diet, reduce the meat consumption and dismantle large, inhumane industrialized farming operations as opposed to find uses for such a huge number of chicken feathers.

    • kilth

      shan

      9/10-obviously a troll, but you managed to fool everyone else so pretty darn good

    • Helge Pharrherr

      Save the salad! Eat Vegans!

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