Chitin and chitosan

Chitin is a polysaccharide that occurs, among other places, in insects and crustaceans such as lobsters and shrimp. It is one of the most common organic materials in the world. After being converted into chitosan and then glucosamine, chitin can be used as a food supplement. Chitosan can also be used to develop films or coatings with special antimicrobial characteristics.

Wageningen Food & Biobased has extensive experience in isolating chitin and converting it into chitosan using extrusion and/or enzymes. We can also modify chitin and chitosan to add new characteristics.

Innovative isolation techniques for chitin

Chitin is mainly isolated from side streams of crustaceans -like lobster (from the shell, for instance) as well as from insects and fungi (including mushrooms). In the isolation process we use concentrated acid and alkaline solutions and perform extractions under high temperatures. Converting chitin into chitosan even requires an extra treatment with alkaline solutions. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has developed techniques for realising the isolation of chitin and chitosan under milder conditions (with enzymes) and with lower levels of chemicals (via extrusion technology). With these techniques, it is also possible to convert chitin and chitosan into the valuable building blocks N-acetyl glucosamine and glucosamine.

New and improves characteristics

In addition to specific isolation techniques, Wageningen Food & Biobased Research is working on improving the characteristics of chitin and chitosan (such as solubility and biofunctionality) and developing entirely new characteristics for these materials. Chitosan has interesting antimicrobial functions that can be adapted using modification. The modified chitosan is used to make films or coatings that can counteract microbial pollution. N-acetyl glucosamine and glucosamine are used in the making of bioplastics, among other things.

Research opportunities

Chitin and chitosan are interesting starting material for many different markets and applications such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, (bio)medical applications, packaging and water treatment. At the request of our clients, we can isolate chitin and chitosan, N-acetyl glucosamine and glucosamine from various sources via the desired techniques or add new characteristics. We also analyse and characterise chitin and chitosan.