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Feather structure insulates: Canada goose


Goose down feather / Fuzzy Thomps.. / LicenseCC-by-nc-sa - Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike

Down feathers of geese insulate through special architecture.

"Feather keratin occurs in a 'b-sheet' configuration which differs from the a-helices that occur in mammalian keratins. . . We have measured the properties of individual down feathers from ducks, geese and penguins and found that their properties are similar to flight feathers and, indeed, the man-made polymers used in artificial insulation fibres. The message is that the architecture of down feathers is probably more important than material properties in determining their advantages over synthetic materials. . .Recently, we have begun to explore the toughness of feather keratin by using instrumented clippers and scissors. The fracture toughness of β-keratin has proved to be very high, around 10 kJ m-2." (Bonser 2007)

Comparison of keratin structure in down feathers and mammal hair. Artist: Emily Harrington. Copyright: All rights reserved. See gallery for details.

About the inspiring organism
Med__mg_7964a_std Canada Goose
Branta canadensis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common name: Canada goose

Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: ITIS: The Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Create more effective insulation instead of man-made polymers, both in construction and clothing...

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Construction, textiles

Centre for Biomimetics
George Jeronimidis Richard Bonser
University of Reading
Cameron, G. J.; Wess, T. J.; Bonser, R. H. C. 2003. Young’s modulus varies with differential orientation of keratin in feathers. Journal of Structural Biology. 143(2): 118-123.
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Bonser, Richard. 2008. Mechanical properties of keratin.
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