Scientists Find a New Use for Chicken Feathers

Repurposing chicken feathers in a new clean way.

Chicken feathers have a new green use.

(Janis Apels /

Why did the chicken cross the road? Possibly to help save the world. Now scientists have discovered a way to repurpose waste by using chicken feathers to help power clean electricity. And that’s no joke.
The link between electricity and chicken feathers

Researchers from ETH Zurich in Switzerland and Nanyang Technical University in Singapore have discovered a way to use chicken feathers to help power clean electricity producing fuel cells. According to Interesting Engineering, the study suggested that chicken feathers, a waste product, could be used to create one of the essential elements of a clean energy fuel cell. 

Fuel cells work through a series of chemical reactions, according to Earth.Com. Vital to those reactions, are semi-permeable membranes which separates electrons and protons. The protons remain unused, while the electrons are funneled into an external electric circuit to make electricity

Currently those membranes are made of expensive and toxic forever chemicals. With astonishing creativity, however, the researchers found a way to use keratin, a protein found in human hair and nails, as well as chicken feathers, which are 90 percent keratin, to create a cheaper, and much more environmentally friendly cell membrane. 

A double advantage
Using keratin from chicken feathers is doubly advantageous. Besides replacing  toxic forever chemicals in the fuel cell itself it reuses waste that is highly polluting. .That’s because 40 million British tonnes of feathers are burned annually, producing an astonishing amount of CO2, and even worse, toxic gasses such as sulfur dioxide.  Using the feathers for other purposes such as keratin production would keep those greenhouse gasses from entering the atmosphere. 

Dr Raffaele Mezzenge of ETH and one of the primary authors of the paper, told Earth.Com, “Our latest development closes a cycle: we’re taking a substance that releases CO2 and toxic gasses when burned and using it in a different setting. With our new technology, it not only replaces toxic substances but also prevents the release of CO2, decreasing the overall carbon footprint.”

What is most amazing about this discovery is its creativity. In the quest to create sustainable and affordable clean energy no stone can go unturned: even if the stone happens to be a chicken feather. 

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