Seminar room H 26/5 17:15 pm: Long and medium range order of keratin obtained from animal processing waste. (S. Mattiello)

Sara Mattiello, 1st year PhD Unicam student will give a seminar entitled

Long and medium range order of keratin obtained from animal processing waste.

in room H, polo di Fisica, 26 May 2021 17:15 pm

(virtual room:


A fascinating part of the new frontier of materials study is the development of biologically inspired materials and designs. The poultry and wool industries generate huge amounts of waste every year. Also immense is the waste of natural water, Any kilogram of textile costs about 10000 liters of water. In Europe, most poultry feathers and wool waste are disposed off in landfills or incinerated, becoming a problem for the future. As part of the circular economy, we can reduce the environmental impact by extracting keratin from wool and feather waste and using it as a raw material for new materials. The first part of the work involved the development of a keratin extraction protocol and its structural characterization with different techniques (AFM, SEM, Raman spectroscopy and SAXS). A comprehensive understanding of the biochemistry, structure and mechanical properties of protein keratin is of great importance for the development of keratin-based bioinspired materials and devices. Wool is elastic, durable, biodegradabile, fire -resistant, breathable, anti-static, water-repellent,strong yet soft, and no synthetic fibre can reach this performance. Most of these properties relies on the medium and long range order of the fibers, able to drive effects like shape memory, smart filtration, thermal conductance. 

Keratin molecules twist along their length to the right like coils. Coils wrap around one another in opposite directions to form a tiny rope, a microfibril. The microfibrils patterns through amorphous protein bridges to form bunches of fibres, and on a larger scale  through waxy substances ( able to be soaked by coloured dyes), makes other networks.  Finally is covered by scales like roof tiles making harder towards the root and softer towards the tip ( with the function to expel dirt away the body)  but giving to felting entangling together fibres under agitation.     

Such a study of a hyerarchical structure will comprehend a multi-scale, multitechnique investigation to correlate the properties to chemical and physical  processes under refinement during the project to extract from the natural material the principle to be exploited in one of the multiple material attitudes.