A technology developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists to turn chicken feathers into industrial fiber recently received a third-place award at the “World's Best Technologies 2004” conference in Arlington, Texas.

Processed chicken feather fiber, because of its super-fine size and shape, may be used for filtration. Wood pulp filters have a width of 10-20 microns, compared to 5 microns for filters made from feather fiber. That means filters made from feather fibers will have a finer mesh, resulting in smaller pores for trapping more minute airborne particles.

The feather-fiber technology has been patented and licensed. Featherfiber Corp. of Nixa, Mo., has built the first fully operational pilot plant to convert feathers into feather fiber and keratin quill. Featherfiber is marketing the fiber to be used in lightweight, sound-deadening composite materials for use in office cubicles, cars and sleeping compartments of tractor trailers.