Published on 20 Nov 2023

Powering Clean Energy with Chicken Feathers - Professor Ali Miserez

We are delighted to share that Professor Ali Miserez and his team have been featured in various media platforms for their research on turning unused waste from food production into clean energy. The joint study, led by Professor Ali Miserez (Director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials at NTU) and Professor Raffaele Mezzenga (Head of the Food & Soft Materials Laboratory at ETH Zürich), involves converting chicken feathers into a clean and sustainable material to build zero-waste fuel cells.

The food industry generates massive amounts of waste and by-products, including from poultry production. Approximately 40 million tonnes of chicken feathers are incinerated yearly, releasing significant amounts of CO2 and toxic gases like sulphur dioxide. Professor Miserez and Professor Mezzenga’s team have discovered an innovative way to put these feathers to good use. 

Through a simple and environmentally friendly process, they extract keratin protein from the feathers and transform it into ultra-fine fibres called amyloid fibrils. These amyloid fibrils are then used to develop fuel cell membranes, which conventionally involve toxic chemicals known as “forever chemicals” that are expensive and do not break down in the environment. On the other hand, the keratin-based membrane developed by the team is environmentally friendly as it is composed of biological material and created through a green process that does not produce carbon emissions.

To test the efficiency of the feather-based membranes, the team conducted experiments using a commercial fuel cell setup. In their experiments, the fuel cell successfully powered an LED lamp, spun a small fan and operated a toy car. Considering the large amount of chicken feather waste produced by the poultry industry, the membrane developed in the laboratory could be up to three times cheaper than conventional alternatives. The team’s breakthrough not only addresses the issue of poultry waste but also presents an innovative solution for fuel cell technology. 

"The poultry industry generates millions of tons of unwanted chicken feather waste, which is burnt off in disposal, releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide and toxic gases such as sulphur dioxide. Our membrane reduces such emissions by repurposing the feathers into further green applications in fuel cells. The membrane not only has a negative carbon footprint from its production but can operate without further carbon dioxide emissions when used in a fuel cell."
- Professor Ali Miserez -

L-R: Professor Ali Miserez from the School of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) and School of Biological Sciences (SBS) and PhD student, Mr Soon Wei Long, are part of a joint research team that found a way to convert chicken feathers into a clean and sustainable material to build zero-waste fuel cells. (Source: NTU, Singapore)

The team’s joint research work has been published in the peer-reviewed journal – ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces – under the title “Renewable Energy from Livestock Waste Valorization: Amyloid-Based Feather Keratin Fuel Cells”. (DOI: 10.1021/acsami.3c10218)

Their study highlights NTU’s commitment to sustainability and innovation for a circular economy under the 2025 Strategic Plan. It also aligns with the NTU Sustainability Manifesto, which guides the University towards sustainability, carbon neutrality, and societal impact.

For the full media release, please visit the following link: Powering clean energy with chicken feathers | NTU Singapore 

We extend our congratulations to Professor Ali Miserez and his team on this outstanding achievement!