Nebraska University team to make fibres from feathers

30 Jun '18
2 min read
Courtesy: University of Nebraska
Courtesy: University of Nebraska

A team of scientists led by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln professor Yiqi Yang is working on converting poultry feathers and waste garments into commercially viable textiles. The project has received grant support from the Nebraska Environmental Trust. The aim is to develop a product from keratin fibres found in feathers and protein fibres in wool.

Textiles made from these protein fibres have unparalleled performance properties, including moisture transmission, thermal insulation, soft hand and luster.

“Fibres from our research could be used for the textile industry and also have potential in the biomedical industry, especially as tissue engineering scaffolds,” said Yang. “To the best of our knowledge, no efficacious method has been developed to produce regenerated keratin fibres, despite global efforts during the last two decades.”

The Nebraska Environmental Trust recently awarded Yang a $211,885, two-year pilot-scale production grant to further the study.

Yang’s goal is to first produce spinnable fibres on a lab scale, then to improve the process at a pilot scale. With the cooperation of the apparel and fashion industry, Yang hopes to produce enough keratin fibres and yarn to incorporate them into garments.

The regenerated keratin fibres will have performance properties close to wool fibres and appearance close to silk. The researchers are working on a low-cost, efficient water-based solvent that will simultaneously de-crosslink and dissolve keratin from feathers while preserving protein backbones that give the fibres their desirable textile properties.

Yang said developing these fibres from waste materials can create new markets, new small businesses and jobs for Nebraska poultry producers and the broader industry. The project could also result in a viable use for poultry and textile waste.

Nebraska’s research is currently using feathers from a “clean feather producer” but in the future Yang would like to work with feathers directly from the poultry production industry in Nebraska.

Yang is a professor of textiles, clothing and fashion design, and biological systems engineering. He holds appointments in Nebraska’s College of Education and Human Sciences and the College of Engineering. (SV)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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