SBIR Phase I: Manufacturing of Next Generation Biobased Composites
This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project proposes to research and develop bio-based materials from high performance poultry feather fiber. Protein fibers like silk and feather have high stiffness and low density, giving them density-normalized properties similar to steel. Silk has proven too costly to manufacture. Feather fiber, which has comparable properties, can be obtained easily and economically as a waste product of the poultry industry. There is a burgeoning market for bio-based plastics as manufacturers transition from 100% fossil fuel-based plastics to ones with increased bio-based content. Polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) account for 54% of U.S. plastics production. Adding feather fiber to PE or PP would increase the bio-based content and properties, thus adding value to the product. The goal of this project is to create a universal feather fiber additive that can be easily shipped to customers and compounded into an existing plastic using the existing processing equipment. The specific goals of the work are to 1) further develop the company's existing feather fiber process to increase yield and 2) research methods to pelletize the feather fibers with binders to create a fiber "concentrate" that is amenable to existing plastics manufacturing processes. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is the creation of a bio-based replacement for traditional commodity plastics that are derived from fossil fuels. The rise in fossil fuel prices, and supply concerns have created opportunities for bio-based plastics from annually renewable biological sources. Compared to traditional plastics, 100% bio-based plastics are expensive, have inferior properties, and require different processing. Market drivers are pushing manufacturers to transition to bio-based plastics incrementally, in order to obtain certification as a bio-based product. To become more integrated and to serve more markets, the intention is to create one universal feather fiber additive that can be shipped and sold to all customers. The feather fiber concentrate will allow more customers to segue to bio-based plastics, which is a market growing at 17.8% per year. This will reduce the plastic industry's reliance on fossil fuels and create more environmentally-friendly products. In addition, it will allow the re-use of an agricultural byproduct, poultry feathers, which are currently land filled or reground to feather mill.
Small Business Information at Submission:
Eastern Bioplastics LLC
PO Box 1845 Harrisonburg, VA 22801-9500
Number of Employees: