Those researchers in the department of chemical and materials engineering at the University of Nevada in Reno are at it again. Last year they showed the world that it was possible to make biodiesel fuel from coffee grounds. This time, it’s chicken feathers.
In a paper in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Mano Misra, Susanta K. Mohapatra and colleagues describe how they extracted fat from chicken feather meal and converted it into good-quality biodiesel.
Feather meal, which is commonly used as fertilizer or animal feed, is a byproduct of large-scale poultry production and often includes blood and offal. It can contain up to 11 percent fat.
The researchers extracted the fat by boiling the meal in water and converting it to biodiesel by a process called transesterification.
They say that there is enough feather meal produced in the United States alone to create about 150 million gallons of biodiesel a year. That’s just a drop in the bucket, really, but the researchers note that most current production of biodiesel uses vegetable oil, and as demand for the fuel grows there is likely to be competition for the oil between food uses and fuel uses.
Thus it’s important, the researchers say, to seek alternative sources for biodiesel production — with the goal, as they put it, of “food for hunger, waste for fuel.”