“Over recent years we have been working closely with industrial partners to characterize feathers, develop suitable cleaning technology and identify potential opportunities for new and novel products. Our progress in this field and the production of prototype products would have been impossible without the unique paper production pilot facility we have on campus. We are fortunate to be the only university in the UK to boast such advanced equipment,” says Chris Carr, a professor at the School of Materials.
“We are very excited and encouraged by our results and the prototypes we have produced, although there is still some way to go before products start to appear on the shelves. We see this as a real opportunity to take the large volume of poultry feathers, which are currently being incinerated or dumped into land fill sites, and put them to good use,” he adds.
Taking advantage of the fact that the UK annually produces around 120,000 tonnes of poultry, duck and goose feathers, the researchers devised a clever way of turning them into paper. The university refuses to disclose the full technological process involved, but says that the special machines it owns have the capacity to turn the pulp of the feathers into a paper-like compound, much like the manufacturing process for liquid wood.
Potential applications for the new technique include the construction of plant pots, which are traditionally flame retardant, the making of egg boxes, and the fertilization of soil in agriculture, as the new type of paper contains high amounts of nitrogen, stored in the proteins inside the feathers. Who knows, maybe in the future we could even write on paper sheets made of feathers. It will certainly be a much better use for them than simply throwing them away or burning them.