What is chitin?

Chitin is an insoluble polymer which can be found in the shells of crustaceans (e.g. crabs and shrimp) and several other places – it is the most abundant natural polymer after cellulose.

Chitin and its derivative chitosan have multiple applications as it is biocompatible, biodegradable, non-toxic, thermally and chemically stable [1].

What can chitin be used for?

Chitin is mostly used in its derivative form as chitosan. Because of some favourable biological properties such as biodegradability, non-toxicity and antibacterial activity, the usage has been proposed across multiple areas. Some common uses include the food industry as additives controlling texture, fining agent, stabilizer, thickener etc. Pharmaceutical use is also common as drug-delivery systems.

What is chitosan?

Chitosan is the acetylated derrivative of chitin. Chitosan differs from chitin in that it is soluble in week acids and is formed by acetylation where chitin is exposed to strong alkali. For instance, chitosan can be formed by exposing the shells of crustaceans to strong alkali.

Is chitin extraction sustainable?

Not always. In this project, however, we will look at greener methods for extraction, in which we will apply environmentally friendly solvents and enzymatic fermentation approaches. Microbial conversion of chitin to chitosan will also be investigated.

Learn about the marine sources from which we extract collagen and chitin