Two teenagers from Bosnia and Herzegovina have built a reactor—from chicken feathers. Ubiquitous and far less expensive than carbon nanotubes, chicken feathers have already been used to store hydrogen and produce biodiesel. Their reactor, which combines these discoveries, earned the teens a finalist spot at the Google Science Fair in Mountain View, CA last week. Weeding out thousands of submissions, the system produces both biodiesel and carbonized chicken feathers.
Carbonized chicken feathers can store hydrogen at least as well as carbon nanotubes, but presents an affordable option. A 20-gallon carbon nanotube tank costs $5.5 million to make; whereas chicken feathers can be used to store the same amount for $200.
Hydrogen is used extensively in the production of ammonia, methanol, gasoline, heating oil and rocket fuel. It is also used to make fertilizers, glass, refined metals, vitamins, cosmetics, semi-conductor circuits, soaps, lubricants, cleaners, and even margarine and peanut butter.