Chitin is a suitable and abundant natural resource for production of important carbohydrate based chemicals and materials. The only commercial derivatives of chitin are chitosan (~2 ktons/year) and glucosamine (GlcN) (~20 ktons/year). Current processes produce GlcN by acid-catalysed depolymerisation and deacetylation of chitin using concentrated HCl at high temperature. Because of the high environmental impact of the process, there is need to develop new green and efficient routes to produce sustainable products derived from chitin.
Aim and research question
The aim of this project is to develop the chemo-enzymatic routes for the production of high-value chemicals and materials by using chitin as a feed-stock.
The work consists of screening for chitinolytic enzymes in microorganisms. After identification of genes encoding the putative desired activities, genes will be over expressed, produced and used for further characterization. A technological hurdle that has to be surpassed is the development of effective technology for disrupting the crystalline structure of α-chitin (the main component of chitin) to enhance the interaction with the chitinolytic enzymes and promote hydrolysis. Finally, the conditions of enzymatic reactions for production of high-value chemicals and materials from chitin will be optimised.
This research received funding from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) in the framework of the TASC Technology Area BIOMAS.
Project partners: Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research, Dyadic Netherlands.