What could be more appealing than a technology that takes waste out of landfills and transforms it into a biodegradable plastic? Disposing of chicken feathers is a problem in and of its own --more than 3 billion pounds (1.4 billion kilograms) of them have to be dealt with annually in the United States [source: ScienceDaily]. Thanks to innovation, they soon may be a resource to make a new water-resistant thermoplastic.
Chicken feathers are composed almost entirely of keratin, a protein so tough that it can give strength and durability to plastics. It's found in hair and wool, hooves and horns -- and we can all appreciate how strong a horse's hoof can be without having the pleasure of being kicked by one.
Researchers decided to tap into keratin's superstrong features by processing chicken feathers with methyl acrylate, a liquid found in nail polish. Ultimately, the keratin-based plastic proved to be substantially stronger and more resistant to tearing than other plastics made from agricultural sources, such as soy or starch, and scientists are clucking excitedly about chicken-feather plastic. After all, inexpensive, abundant chicken feathers are a renewable resource. Although not formally tested as of February 2012, chicken-feather plastic is expected to be fully biodegradable.