Moscow researchers report chitin breakthrough

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In Russia, researchers at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology have developed a faster, environmentally friendly way to depolymerize chitin and chitosan into low molecular weight, water-soluble oligosaccharides.

Their process involves degrading chitin and chitosan by electron-beam plasma in a specially designed reactor, which reduces the time it takes to produce water-soluble oligosaccharides from days to just minutes. Conventional production is a multi-step, lengthy process that involves chemical depolymerization at high temperatures with hydrogen peroxide, organic and inorganic acids, and other “aggressive agents.” The result is large volumes of industrial wastewater.

Chitin and chitosan are the main components of insect and crustacean exoskeletons and can also be found in most fungi and some algae. They demonstrate biocompatible and antibacterial properties. Applications include agriculture, medicine, food processing, and cosmetics.

The work was published in Carbohydrate Polymers.