Chicken feathers as the basis of more sustainable fuel cells

20 October 2023 11:45

Zurich CCGreater Zurich

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Zurich/Singapore - Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and Nanyang Technological University Singapore have developed a membrane to make fuel cells more sustainable. This is made from keratin obtained from the waste product of chicken feathers.

Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) and Nanyang Technological University Singapore intend to use chicken feathers for the production of green energy. They are taking this waste product from the food industry to manufacture a membrane used in fuel cells. This involves extracting keratin, the main component of the chicken feathers, in a simple, environmentally friendly process, further details of which can be found in a press release issued by ETH Zurich.

The semi-permeable membrane replaces the membranes made from highly toxic chemicals that are used in fuel cells. The membrane made from the keratin obtained from chicken feathers is significantly cheaper to produce in the laboratory than its chemical-based counterpart. In addition, a significant amount of CO2 emissions can be spared because chicken feathers are usually incinerated as a waste product.

“I’ve devoted a number of years to researching different ways we can use food waste for renewable energy systems”, comments Raffaele Mezzenga, Professor of Food and Soft Materials at ETH Zurich, in the press release. “Our latest development closes a cycle: we’re taking a substance that releases CO2 and toxic gases when burned and used it in a different setting: with our new technology it not only replaces toxic substances, but also prevents the release of CO2, decreasing the overall carbon footprint cycle”, he adds.

In addition to being used in fuel cells, the researchers are confident that the new membrane can also be used to produce hydrogen through electrolysis. Investors are currently being sought to support the further development of the patent-pending technology. ce/hs

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