Feathers are still largely untapped as a biobased raw material for industrial use. The largest share of the industrially relevant quantities of feathers produced per year in Europe´s poultry farms is processed into animal feed or disposed of as waste. However, the keratin contained in feathers, a water-insoluble fibrous protein, could serve as a starting point for oligomer fractions.
Objectives and project plan
At the Straubing branch of Fraunhofer IGB, research is being conducted into making feather waste usable for specialty chemicals: A hydrolysis process is first used to obtain shortened polymers – oligomers – to bring the protein chains into solution and crosslink them for later use. Following the development of initial manufacturing protocols in Straubing, large-scale production of the oligomer fractions will take place at the Fraunhofer Center for Chemical‑Biotechnological Processes CBP in Leuna.
KERAbond is intended to open up the important structural protein keratin, which has so far been largely unused in the materials sector, for adhesives and specialty chemicals for surface treatment. This could also serve as an impulse to make other structural proteins usable through tailored downstream chemistry.