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Scientist says feathers are future of Asia construction

A Philippino worker plucks a chicken beside a pile of waste chicken feathers at a farmers market in Manila on August 2, 2008. A Filipino scientist says he has created a new composite building board made of chicken feathers that could be a major breakthrough for the construction industry in Asia. The new material would be resistant to the region's armies of termites, and could also solve a major environment problem in the Philippines by providing a way to dispose of millions of kilos of waste feathers each year. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Aug 3, 2008
A Filipino scientist says he has created a new composite building board made of chicken feathers that could be a major breakthrough for the construction industry in Asia.

The new material would be resistant to the region's armies of termites, and could also solve a major environment problem in the Philippines by providing a way to dispose of millions of kilos of waste feathers each year.

The research done by University of the Philippines Los Bażos professor Menandro Acda, which is funded by the Ford Conservation and Environmental Grants programme, is being heralded as economically and environmentally sound.

In an interview with AFP, Acda said the material, made of compressed cement and chicken feathers, could be widely used for housing, replacing boards now made with wood chips, which are easily ruined by hungry insects.

The composite boards are "resistant to insect infestation such as termites because the feathers are inedible," Acda said.

"They are also not as flammable or combustible as conventional cement and wood-fibre composite boards," he added.

Although more research needs to be done, Acda said the feather boards could be used for paneling, ceilings and as insulation but not for weight-bearing building components like walls or pillars.

The researcher said his work would also solve the significant problem of disposing of the 2.4 million tonnes of feathers produced each year by the Philippines poultry industry, while doing less damage to the environment.

"Conventional waste disposal methods, when applied to chicken feathers, are problematic," he said, referring to burning, burial or recycling the feathers for use in low-quality animal feeds.

"Incineration releases greenhouse gases and the feathers take up a lot of space in landfills and take a long time to decay because of the keratin protein that make up the feathers," Acda noted.

"There is also the fear of bird flu, which makes converting chicken feathers into animal feeds undesirable."

Acda is hoping to perfect his feather board by year's end, at which point he will publish his findings.

"If the study results are good, then we will apply for a patent and publish the study," he said.

"The next step would be to form a partnership with a company that can maximise this technology -- perhaps (local food giant) San Miguel Corp. which has Purefoods as a subsidiary company and, through Purefoods, operates large poultry farms nationwide," he said.

The president of Ford Motor Company Philippines, Rick Baker, said the company was "proud to be involved in such an exciting and ecologically relevant project."

"Our support for this endeavour underscores our commitment to finding sustainable solutions in protecting and maintaining our environment," he said.

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