Today, at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, attendees will hear a presentation about a possible development in the production of garment fabrics using chicken feathers and rice straw that would otherwise get discarded from the farm as waste by the millions of tons. If this idea works, it could present a viable alternative to petroleum-based synthetic fabrics, which would be cheap, renewable, and have the qualities of cotton, linen or wool.
Like wool, chicken feathers are composed primarily of keratin. The researchers are particularly interested in the barbs and barbules, the thin, filamentous network that forms the fluffy parts of the feather. These structures have a sturdy honeycomb architecture containing tiny air pockets that make the filaments extremely lightweight and resilient. Those properties offer the potential for developing fabrics that have lighter weight, better shock absorption and superior insulation -- properties that may represent an improvement over wool
It's not available yet, but a positive example of finding the value of nature's architecture in the byproducts of industry, and producing something of great utility and superior functionality to the standard stuff. (I just hope it doesn't retain the smell...)