Nevada studies feather meal for waste-based biodiesel

By Susanne Retka Schill | June 09, 2009
Posted July 1, 2009

Feather biodiesel is the latest work of the researchers at the University of Nevada-Reno-the same team whose work with coffee biodiesel gave them a moment of fame-who recently published a paper on extract useable oils from another waste material-feather meal.

Currently, feather meal left after poultry processing is used as an animal feed, given its high protein content, and also as a fertilizer because of its high nitrogen content. The fat content varies from 2 percent to 12 percent depending on the type of feathers, with chicken feathers containing approximately 11 percent oil content while turkey and duck features contain about 7 percent oil. Removing the fat from the meal would provide a new coproduct and boost the value of the feed and fertilizer coproducts.

The fatty acid profile of the feather meal is similar to the profile of chicken fat, with oleic acid and palmitic acids in the majority. The researchers extracted the fat from the feather meal in boiling water. UNR researcher Narasimharao Kondamudi said the laboratory process used would be applicable in the processing plant's rendering unit, removing it from the watery waste stream before it is baked and dried down into meal. Using standard transesterification methods the feather meal oil was processed into biodiesel meeting ASTM specifications showing a good cetane number and high oxidation stability, although with a cloud point of 23 degrees Celsius.

"Foster Farms supplied the materials for our research," Kondamudi said. "They are interested in the fuel as well as higher protein feather meal." While the research is at early stages and no commercialization effort is underway yet, the team estimates that the feather meal produced by the poultry industry -based on a 10 percent oil yield- could produce about 153 million gallons of biodiesel annually, and potentially nearly 600 million gallons worldwide.

The team's paper, "A Green Process for Producing Biodiesel from Feather Meal," was published in late June by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The four authors from the Chemical and Materials Engineering Department at UNR include Kondamudi, Jason Strull, Mano Misra and Susanta Mohapatra.

Following up on the coffee biodiesel project (for the article in Biodiesel Magazine visit ) Kondamudi reports that the university has licensed the technology to two companies in Europe. "I hope coffee biodiesel will be in the market very soon," he said.
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