Chicken Feathers Used in Computer

Shafts of chicken feathers conduct electricity nearly as fast as silicon chips.

by / July 24, 2002
NEWARK, Del. (AP) -- Everyone's familiar with the computer mouse. But the computer chicken?

Researchers in the University of Delaware's ACRES program -- Affordable Composites from Renewable Sources -- have developed a computer processor made from chicken feathers.

The head of the program, chemical engineering professor Richard Wool, said researchers looked to chicken feathers because they have shafts that are hollow but strong, and made mostly of air, a great conductor of electricity.

The chicken-feather chip is made from soybean resin and feathers crafted into a composite material that looks and feels like silicon. In early tests, electrical signals moved twice as quickly through the feather chip as through a conventional silicon chip, researchers said.

"The first time, Dr. Wool's response was, 'Recheck,"' said Chang Kook Hong, 34, the postdoctoral research associate who headed the research. "I repeated the test three times with the same results. Then he said, 'You have a hit here."'

Problems still remain, including the natural bumps and irregularities that come from using an organic base, said Dr. Dennis Prather, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

"The microchip industry depends on materials that are ultra-smooth and ultra-flat," he said. "This was anything but that."

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