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Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Feather treatment work advances well within UNLOCK!

The first 6 months of the UNLOCK project have now passed, and our partners CEDROB & RISE Processum are making some interesting progress in optimising feather treatment. 

Since day one of the project, CEDROB has been involved in the development of mechanical feather processing technology, and RISE Processum has made experiments with steam explosion (STEX) and grinding of the first set of feather material. 6 months after the beginning of the trials, both partners share their experiences and remaining hurdles.

The UNLOCK team at CEDROB is working hard to improve the final grinding process and meet UNLOCK's end-product expectations.

The treatment process followed by CEDROB consists of the following stages: pressing, washing, spinning, drying, and finally, grinding. Indeed, feathers obtained from slaughter processes are contaminated with slaughter residues, but for the UNLOCK project, having clean feathers is essential. While the first four processes are known and technologically mastered by CEDROB, the final process of grinding the feathers to a down-like texture is a technological challenge for the UNLOCK team at CEDROB.

Different strategies have been tested to obtain the final product with the desired parameters. Thanks to these tests, CEDROB will also be able to improve other stages of feather processing! 

So far, the team is using dried feathers for the technological trials and is currently performing tests with the use of technologically different mills, e.g. knife mill, hammer mill, beater mill. The mill currently being tested is a cascade mill with an air turbine and feather extraction system, which supports the flow of feather mass. Based on these solutions, further tests will be performed to improve the process and make the next prototype mills. 

After grinding, feather samples are sorted into fractions that differ in product size.

RISE Processum is making exciting progress but still has hurdles to overcome.

RISE Processum is making exciting progress thanks to the hard-working project team: Oskar Nilsson, Björn Källman, Emma Johansson and Johan Börjesson. By steam exploding (STEX) and grinding the first set of feather material, they have already managed to increase the bulk density of the feathers to 85%! 

But the team is still facing some hurdles on the way. First, to make the feathers ready to process, the bulk density needs to be further increased to 90%. To reach that bulk density, the team is going to further tweak the process parameters - temperature and time.

The upcoming challenge for the team at RISE Processum will be to confirm the repeatability and reproducibility of the process. So far, a variety in raw feathers that may have an impact on reproducibility has been identified. Additionally, the team will work on removing the brown colour from the feathers, a result of the steam process. 

This project has received funding from the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement Nº 101023306.

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