Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Mar 22

Fuel from Chicken Feathers?

Posted in Biodiesel Fuel | Biofuels | Waste to Energy

Chicken Feathers If we go by the stats, every year 11 billion pounds of poultry industry waste accumulates annually, because we have gigantic appetite for poultry products. They can’t be stuffed into pillows. Mostly they are utilized as low-grade animal feed. Scientists in Nevada have created a new and environmentally friendly process for developing biodiesel fuel from ‘chicken feather meal’. Professor Manoranjan ‘Mano’ Misra and his team members at the University of Nevada discovered that chicken feather meal consists of processed chicken feathers, blood, and innards. Prof. Misra has been honored as the 2010 Regents’ Researcher by the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents.


Chicken feather meal is processed at high temperatures with steam. This feather meal is used as animal feed and also as fertilizer. Chicken feather meal has high percentage of protein and nitrogen. The researchers have paid attention to the 12% fat content of the chicken feather meal. They have arrived at the conclusion that feather meal has potential as an alternative, non-food feedstock for the production of biofuel. They have extracted fat from chicken feather meal using boiling water and processing it into biodiesel. Another advantage of extracting fat from feather meal is it provides both a higher-grade animal feed and a better nitrogen source for fertilizer applications.

Stats tell us that if we take into account the amount of feather meal generated by the poultry industry each year, researchers could produce 153 million gallons of biodiesel annually in the U.S. and 593 million gallons worldwide.

Prof. Misra is the director of the University of Nevada, Reno’s Renewable Energy Centre. He has published 183 technical papers in the areas of materials, nanotechnology and environmental and mineral process engineering until now. He also has 10 patents published and another 12 are pending. He has secured over $25 million dollars in grant funding.

Other research is going on regarding chicken feather meal. It contains stronger and more absorbent keratin fiber than wood. Professor Richard P. Wool of the chemical engineering department of the University of Delaware, is trying to carbonized chicken feathers. This type of chicken feather bears a resemblance to highly versatile (and tiny) carbon nanotubes. This chicken feather can be utilized to store hydrogen for fuel-cell vehicles. If we visualize carefully we can see that very tiny natural sponges of chicken feathers have a big weight advantage over metal hydride storage.

Wool’s graduate student Erman Senöz in the project explained that they applied the pyrolysis process. During this process a very high heat without combustion in the absence of oxygen is applied. This yields fibers “that are micro-porous, very thin and hollow inside like carbon nanotubes. They start forming at 350 degrees Centigrade, and above 500 C they collapse. We’re trying to find the perfect temperature.”

Another advantage of this process is there won’t be lack of chicken-feed, because the fiber is taken from the central quill part. It leaves the fluffy feathers available to force-feed livestock. Feather fiber is quite cheap, and the “gas tank” equivalent would cost around $200.

  • Jos Conil

    Yet another treasure from the unused potential of waste biomass !

  • Clare Jane Mcvety

    This might be a good idea. But what about using drain water to help?

    Thank you Clare Mcvety

  • Lissof Leuf

    I would like to have seen more information as to cost of processing, relative energy comparison of BioDiesel derived from the process to standard diesel grades, quantitative information on the increased value of feedstock and fertilizer.

  • L.Kassahun

    Well that is nice to look to nature gift of environmental friendly energy. The waste from winks have advantage only by looking to the protein my question is what about others in addition to protein and from this we can easily open to our eyes towards the other animals may be animals found in zoo. The other that I do not want to escape here is what if by hybridization getting a product (animal) more consumption of unnecessary waste and more production of out put like the protein introduced.

  • Jarrott

    The amount of biodiesel that could be extracted annually is a drop in the bucket of 4 billion gallons a year used in the US. I like the research but the practical applications is far to limited to be profitable and growable. It cost to much for to little but like i said the research is key.

  • styke

    I am surprised that feathers have 12% fat, but removing the fat from the feed sounds great.

    And 600 million gallons a year or even 150 million gallons a year is not a drop in the bucket of 4 billion gallons. It is a huge contribution.

  • Boneheaded1

    A minor drop in the bucket of our fuel usage but let’s do it. Then let’s find more minor drops in the bucket and eventually they will all add up to fill the bucket. I too, would have loved to a cost analysis but then again, I’m not an investor so it’s not mandatory I know that.

    Everyone’s looking for liquid fuel, let’s not forget bio-gas too.

  • Francy

    Quote:
    “It leaves the fluffy feathers available to force-feed livestock.”
    Yummy!!
    Something tells me that if you do care about “alternative” energy but not about feeding patterns of livestock, you don’t really “get it”.

    I think the fluffy feathers might be better off as a replacement for fiberglass or the production of plastics (which is already being done).

    For the rest: if it’s a bit cost-effective, by all means try it! Of course the 153 million gallons quoted is a “could” figure. In reality you can expect about 80 million gallons or so if you take into account inefficiencies and other uses.

  • maunish

    Sounds as a great and cheap process in rural areas if implemented.

  • endbegin

    Francy’s May 18, 2010 comment is good! Forcefeed feathers to animals?!!!!!!

  • Chris Lucas

    Is chicken feathers the only feathers that will work? What about other feathers? Thanks

  • jim022659

    thats 2100 trucks a year at 200 gallons per truck per day. not such a big deal, not even a dent if you think about it

  • Kathy

    I’m encouraged by the creative application of energy-needed driven research. We need to develop more renewable options.

  • kpollitt

    Are there any companies currently trying this?

  • sangu

    good idea to get rid of poultry waste..

  • jayanthi G

    it sounds great… are they using this technique in day to day life for fuel production?

  • Michael De La Rosa

    This is really cool. I wonder if any major companies use this type of fuel. Probably not.


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