Carbonized chicken feather fibers fluff up hydrogen storage capacity for cars

June 24th, 2009 - 2:53 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 24 (ANI): Scientists in Delaware, US, have developed a new hydrogen storage method in the form of carbonized chicken feather fibers, which can hold vast amounts of hydrogen.

The research, presented at the 13th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference, could eventually help overcome some of the hurdles to using hydrogen fuel in cars, trucks and other machinery.

“Carbonized chicken feather fibers have the potential to dramatically improve upon existing methods of hydrogen storage and perhaps pave the way for the practical development of a truly hydrogen-based energy economy,” said Richard P. Wool, professor of chemical engineering and director of the Affordable Composites from Renewable Resources program at the University of Delaware in Newark.

The research was presented by Erman Senoz, a graduate student in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware in Newark.

Chicken feather fibers are mostly composed of keratin, a natural protein that forms strong, hollow tubes.

When heated, this protein creates crosslinks, which strengthen its structure, and becomes more porous, increasing its surface area.

According to Wool, the net result is carbonized chicken feather fibers, which can absorb as much or perhaps more hydrogen than carbon nanotubes or metal hydrides, two other materials being studied for their hydrogen storage potential.

An added advantage of the fibers is that they are cheap.

Using carbonized chicken feathers would only add about 200 dollars to the price of a car, said Wool.

“By comparison, making a 20-gallon hydrogen fuel tank that uses carbon nanotubes could cost 5.5 million dollars; one that uses metal hydrides could cost up to 30,000 dollars,” Wool said.

Wool estimated that it would take a 75-gallon tank to go 300 miles in a car using carbonized chicken feather fibers to store hydrogen.

He said his team is working to improve that range.

“The problem with hydrogen as a gas or liquid is its density is too low. Using currently available technology, if you had a 20-gallon tank and filled it with hydrogen at typical room temperature and pressure, you could drive about a mile,” Wool said.

“When we started we didn’t know how well carbonized chicken feathers would work for hydrogen storage, but we certainly suspected we could do a lot better than that,” he added.

In addition to hydrogen storage, Wool and his colleagues are working on ways to transform chicken feather fibers into a number of other products including hurricane-resistant roofing, lightweight car parts and bio-based computer circuit boards. (ANI)

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