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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Functionalization Routes for Keratin from Poultry Industry Side-Streams-Towards Bio-Based Absorbent Polymers

Perez-Puyana, Victor M.; Capezza, Antonio J.; Newson, William R.; Bengoechea, Carlos; Johansson, Eva; Guerrero, Antonio; Hendeqvist, Mikael S.


Keratin is a largely available protein that can be obtained from the ca. 3 million tons of feathers that the European poultry industry produces as a side-stream. Here, the functionalization of keratin from poultry feathers was evaluated using a one- versus two-stage process using two functionalization agents (succinic anhydride-SA and ethylene dianhydride-EDTAD). The functionalization resulted in the keratin having improved liquid swelling capacities, reaching up to 400%, 300%, and 85% increase in water, saline, and blood, respectively, compared to non-functionalized keratin. The highest swelling was obtained for samples functionalized with EDTAD (one-stage process), while the highest saline uptake was noted for samples processed with 25 wt% SA (two-stage process). Swelling kinetics modeling indicated that the water uptake by the functionalized samples takes place in two steps, and the EDTAD samples showed the highest diffusivity. It is demonstrated that the one-stage functionalization of keratin utilizing EDTAD results in better performance than two-stages, which allows for resource-saving and, thereby, protecting the environment. The results show some potential for the keratin to be utilized as liquid absorbent materials in water, saline, and blood uptake applications. Using keratin from side-streams is an advantage from a sustainability perspective over biomacromolecules that need to be extracted from virgin biomass.


poultry feathers; biopolymer; functionalization; succinic anhydride; EDTAD; superabsorbent

Published in

2023, Volume: 15, number: 2, article number: 351
Publisher: MDPI