Prof. Richard Wool and his team have discovered how to maximize the self assembly of the oil-soaked feathers for absorption efficiency, trapping oil spilled on a water surface for effective removal. The correct size of the fibers is critical for assembly.
The U.S. poultry industry reportedly generates 5 to 6 billion pounds of feathers annually, an amount that Wool says could handle an oil spill covering some 200,000 square miles, or the entire economic zone of the Gulf of Mexico.
“The fibers are not attracted to the water,” Wool says, “but they are attracted to the oil, just as they are on live birds. And once a network of oil-soaked fibers is formed, it will reassemble, or restructure, even if it's temporarily broken up by wind or wave action.”