In your future: Clothes made of feathers and straw

What's the new polyester? Feathers.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska are trying to create fabrics made from chicken feathers and rice straw to replace the petroleum-based artificial fabrics in bike jerseys, jackets, carpets and other garments or items. The chicken feather fabric will feel more like wool, while the straw fabric will resemble cotton, so you won't resemble a scarecrow or a homecoming float mascot.

Success, of course, could turn the fabric industry upside down. The cost of fabrics could decline because the base product would be waste product. Oil exports could drop a bit, and farmers would get another income stream.

Research is still in the experimental stage. The properties of the fiber indicate it could be used to spin fabric. Chicken feathers are mostly composed of keratin, the same type of protein found in wool.

"We hope that the research reported here will stimulate interest in using agricultural byproducts as textile fibers, which would add value to agricultural crops and also make the fiber industry more sustainable," said Yiqi Yang, Ph.D., a University of Nebraska professor of textile science, in a prepared statement.

Yang's paper was released at the annual conference of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco this week.

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